NFC East: Demarcus Lawrence

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Brandon Carr sat at his locker trying to find the words to describe his feelings. The Dallas Cowboys' cornerback was in full uniform as his teammates were pulling theirs off. He was searching for answers.

"Frustrated, but a little adversity is nothing we haven't been through before," Carr said after the Cowboys' 28-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. "We have to pick our heads up. We got a business trip coming up (to London to take on Jacksonville) and it's an opportunity to end this sked."

The Cowboys' defense has struggled during this two-game losing streak. On Sunday, Arizona was a perfect four-for-four in the red zone, and all this from a team that entered Week 9 with the NFL's second-worst red zone percentage at 42.1 percent.

There were other questions about the Cowboys' defense such as its failure to get opposing offenses off the field on third down. Arizona converted 60 percent of its third-down plays, the second-highest against the Cowboys' defense this season.

Melton
Quarterback Carson Palmer got passes off with defenders at his feet, inches from the Cowboys pulling him down in the back and basically on his face. Palmer completed 22 of 34 passes for 249 yards with three touchdowns. Yes, he was sacked three times, twice by Henry Melton, who has four the past two weeks, and the defense was credited with nine quarterback hurries.

"We were out there a lot," Melton said. "I don't know the play count, it seemed like a lot. We're not the only defense that plays a lot of snaps in game, but once you're out there you got to get it done."

The Cowboys' defense was on the field for 65 plays, the third most this season. Arizona controlled the clock with an efficient run game, 102 yards, and Palmer's passing to eat up 31:28. That's not even close to Washington's time of possession last week of 38:12.

With the Cowboys using a rotation of linemen, which also included the return of rookie DeMarcus Lawrence, guys should be fresher.

Larry Fitzgerald, one of the great receivers of his generation, had five catches for 70 yards, which included a 31-yard reception off a pick-play against Orlando Scandrick.

Palmer completed passes to eight different players and out of 29 carries, the run game averaged 3.5 yards.

"We ain't do enough to win," Scandrick said. "It's a good football team over there. They do a lot of stuff; a veteran quarterback, a veteran receiver, arguably a Hall of Fame receiver, they made plays."

The Cowboys lost starting middle linebacker Rolando McClain and starting defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford to knee injuries in the fourth quarter, and the injuries raises concerns about their availability for London.

Scandrick
The Cowboys' defense has always been this mysterious deal since the start of the season because the expectations were low. Losing DeMarcus Ware and the lack of confidence in the secondary were the main reasons and nobody knew where the pass rush was coming from.

We've seen improved play from Melton the past two weeks, but we need to see more from other players. Rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was pretty active in his first game of the season, producing two tackles and almost sacking Palmer.

Yet, the common theme around here was frustration and a lack of progress. It's like the Cowboys have been stagnated after their 6-1 start.

"We're frustrated but we got 24 hours to be frustrated and stop the ceiling from falling," Scandrick said. "We need to go over the London and get a W. We need a win in the worst way."
IRVING, Texas -- Now that the Dallas Cowboys have developed one of the NFL's best offensive lines, coach Jason Garrett and the front office have started the same process with the defensive line.

In many ways, they are using the same approach they did to re-shape their offensive line.

Since the start of the 2013 season, the Cowboys have released Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware, and let Jason Hatcher leave via free agency. Of the 11 defensive linemen on the roster, eight joined the Cowboys this season.

McClain
Melton
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (second round), who broke his leg in training camp and should return this month, and Ken Bishop (seventh round) were draft picks. Henry Melton, who missed the last 13 games last season with a torn ACL, signed a one-year deal with a club option for three years and was the only big-dollar defensive player they acquired.

They also signed free agents Jeremy Mincey (30), Terrell McClain (26) and Amobi Okoye (27), who is eligible to come off the non-football illness list for Week 7 before training camp. Mincey signed a two-year deal for $3 million, McClain signed a three-year deal for $3.05 million, and Okoye received a two-year deal worth $1.6 million.

They added Jack Crawford (26) after the Oakland Raiders released him on the final cut, and traded a late-round draft pick to Tennessee for Lavar Edwards (24) the same weekend.

"You’re always trying to bring good players in," Garrett said. "We had some big decisions to make last year from an organizational and salary-cap structure. Those are hard decisions when guys have been good players and you have to move on from them.

"I think we’ve done a good job, both in the draft with young players, but also with some veteran players and the guys already on the team to create that competition and challenge those guys."

The Cowboys have used an eight-man defensive line rotation during their first four games, which means three players sit each week. It wasn’t that tough the first couple of weeks, because the Cowboys had one or two defensive linemen who couldn’t play because of injury.

That is not the case this week, when just about everyone is healthy enough to play.

"We have an eight-man rotation. Who are going to be the eight? It’s up for debate every week," Garrett said. "You want guys to have to earn those spots. You have to earn it on Sunday, and you have to earn the right to dress on Sunday."

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

The Kyle Orton watch is over now that the Cowboys released the veteran backup. The timing of it is a surprise, and Jason Garrett spoke optimistically all offseason about Orton’s return. Now the Cowboys turn their attention to Weeden as Romo’s backup. Weeden had a productive spring, running the first-team offense as Romo recovered from back surgery. The Cowboys haven’t kept a third quarterback since 2011, and Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan will have work to do to crack the 53-man roster

RUNNING BACKS (4)


The last two spots could be up in the air. Randle, a fifth-round choice, will be pushed by free-agent pickup Ryan Williams in the preseason. Williams, a former second-round pick, was not able to stay healthy in Arizona. The Cowboys have given him a chance to win a backup job. Clutts did a nice job as a late-season pickup in 2013. He is more versatile than undrafted rookie J.C. Copeland, but I don’t think having a fullback on the 53-man roster is set in stone.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)


I debated whether to go with a sixth, but later on you will see why I stuck with five. It is possible the Cowboys will look for a veteran in the final cuts if they feel limited by their depth because of injury, but I think they like the overall group. They will work their No. 3 receiver role on a rotation basis, but Beasley could emerge as a bigger threat on third down. There will be a lot of eyes on Williams, who takes over the No. 2 role on a full-time basis. Bryant is set for another Pro Bowl-type season.

TIGHT ENDS (3)


Witten remains near the top of the game at his position. His total catches were down last year, but his touchdowns were up. Escobar’s role figures to expand, especially as a No. 3-type receiver. Hanna has the inside track on the third spot, but I have a feeling the Cowboys will be looking for more of a traditional blocker, especially if they want to get away from the fullback spot to open up a role elsewhere.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

The top six are set, with Bernadeau or Leary fighting it out for the left guard position and the loser becoming the top backup on the interior. Parnell is in the final year of his deal, and if Weems develops, I wonder if the Cowboys would look for a trading partner. They have invested a lot in Parnell in time and money for him to be a backup, so it would be a risk, but perhaps one worth taking. Weems had a decent offseason. Clarke gets the nod as the No. 9 guy right now, but veteran Uche Nwaneri could work his way into the mix.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

I think the Cowboys will go heavy here, especially considering what happened last year and the numbers they have thrown at the position this year. Four of them are rookies -- Lawrence, Gardner, Bishop and Coleman. I believe Anthony Spencer and possibly Amobi Okoye will start the year on the physically unable to perform list, so they don’t make this 53-man roster with the idea that they join the team after the sixth game of the season. Wilson garnered the last spot over a 2013 starter, Nick Hayden, but there will be a few players in the mix for the final few spots, including Ben Bass.

LINEBACKER (7)

Carrying seven linebackers might be a little heavy, but I have special teams in mind when it comes to Will Smith. He benefits from having only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The Cowboys spent the offseason telling us games are won and lost up front, so carrying an extra offensive or defensive linemen could get in this mix as well. McClain gets a spot only because of his experience. Backups of Holloman, Hitchens and Smith would be tough considering their youth, and I can see the Cowboys looking for veteran backup help around the final cut dates.

CORNERBACK (5)


Carr and Claiborne have to play exceptionally well for this defense to have a chance, and they might have to do it without much help from a consistent pass rush. Scandrick is coming off his best season, and Claiborne will have to beat him out to reclaim the starting spot. Moore can play inside and out. Mitchell showed in his limited offseason work that he can make plays. Last year’s fourth-round pick, B.W. Webb, will have to fight for a spot. Based on his offseason work, he did not make the cut for this roster.

SAFETY (5)

Church is the only player without questions. The Cowboys are projecting the other four with their biggest bet on Wilcox. He enters camp as the starter, but he could be pushed by Heath and Hamilton. Dixon will be more of a special-teams threat if he is to make the roster. Hamilton showed some playmaking in the offseason. No Matt Johnson? Not right now, especially after he couldn’t practice -- again -- for most of the offseason.

SPECIALISTS (3)


Perhaps Cody Mandell can push Jones, but Jones is the more consistent punter and has a good rapport as a holder for Bailey. Ladouceur remains one of the best long-snappers in the game. This group won’t change during the summer unless there is an injury.
IRVING, Texas -- Rod Marinelli likes what he saw from his Dallas Cowboys defense in the spring.

The defensive coordinator liked that he has more players along the defensive line. He likes the linebackers’ “movement skills.” He likes how cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne can play man-to-man. He likes the growth J.J. Wilcox made at safety opposite Barry Church.

[+] EnlargeBarry Church and Morris Claiborne
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsDallas defensive backs Barry Church and Morris Claiborne didn't have much to celebrate during 2013.
But there’s something else Marinelli likes about the group.

“I think there’s something to prove a little bit,” Marinelli said. “Not something to prove from last year, but there are some guys coming here off the street with something to prove. There are some guys in contract years with something to prove. There are some guys coming out saying, ‘I want to be a better player,’ who have something prove.

“You get that many guys wanting to prove something, then you can become better. Right now what I like is how hard they’re going after their craft.”

Last season was a mess for the Cowboys' defense. It has been referenced so many times this offseason that “32nd-ranked defense” has been tattooed on everybody. The Cowboys gave up 6,279 yards in 2013 a year after giving up a franchise-record 5,687 yards. Five quarterbacks had four-touchdown games against the Cowboys. Two times in a three-week span, they allowed more than 620 yards. The New Orleans Saints had 40 first downs.

“It definitely bothers us,” Church said. “I’m speaking for myself, but it definitely bothers me. But there’s nothing we can really say or prove different. We were 32nd in the league and we weren’t that good on the defensive side of the ball. This year, the only way we can counter that is by playing good and becoming one of the better teams in the league at taking the ball away and against the run and the pass.”

It’s not just the players. The tag falls on the coaches, too.

“Nobody wants to look at last year and take ownership of that, but we have to,” secondary coach Jerome Henderson said. “And we’ve got to get better from there, and we cannot let that happen again.”

Oh, and now the Cowboys have to show they can be better in 2014 without the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks, DeMarcus Ware, who was cut, last year’s leader in sacks, Jason Hatcher, who signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins, and their best playmaker, Sean Lee, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in organized team activities.

But the sense is that Marinelli likes it this way. He had ubertalented defenses with the Chicago Bears with guys like Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. He won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with guys like Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice, John Lynch and Ronde Barber.

He doesn’t have an Urlacher, Sapp, Brooks, Briggs, Rice or Lynch with this group.

He has Henry Melton, whom he coached to the Pro Bowl with the Bears, trying to prove he can come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He has Bruce Carter trying to prove he is a big-time player in a contract year. He has Claiborne, a former sixth overall pick in the draft, trying to prove he is not a bust. He has Carr trying to prove he is worth the five-year, $50 million contract he received in 2012. He has George Selvie trying to prove he was not a one-year wonder after putting up seven sacks last season. He has Tyrone Crawford trying to prove he can come back from a torn Achilles.

He has low-cost free agents such as Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey and Amobi Okoye trying to prove they can be prime-time players. He has Justin Durant trying to prove he can be a middle linebacker and Kyle Wilber trying to prove he can be a strongside linebacker. He has Rolando McClain trying to prove that a player who has retired twice in the past year has the desire to keep playing. He has DeMarcus Lawrence trying to prove that a second-rounder can make an impact as a rookie. He has Wilcox trying to prove he can play strong safety.

He has guys like Church and Scandrick trying to prove that they can put up solid seasons in back-to-back years.

So much to prove. So much to forget.

“The first thing you do is you take it as coaches and players and you take accountability for it,” Marinelli said. “And no excuses. Now we look forward. Now it’s about the expectations of this group and with expectations you have to execute. It’s that simple. That simple, yet that hard.”
IRVING, Texas -- There was a time when the Dallas Cowboys would not approach the agents of their draft picks until the week before training camp to get a deal finalized.

On Tuesday, second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence became the last of the team's nine draft picks to sign, receiving a four-year deal worth $5.506 million and $3.895 million guaranteed. Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, the negotiations do not need to take a long time to finalize.

"I think business in the rear view mirror is good,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "Guys get that behind them. It's one less thing they're going to worry about. We never worry about it. I do think sometimes the young guys, it's their money, their contract. They worry about it.”

Lawrence was not too worried. He did not miss an organized team activity workout or minicamp session.

"I'm very happy,” said Lawrence, who was the 34th overall pick. "Now I can really say I'm officially a Cowboy.”

The Cowboys do not have to worry about any contracts heading into training camp. The only unresolved issue is backup quarterback Kyle Orton, who missed his second day of minicamp. He is staring at a fine of $69,455 for missing the entire camp, which concludes Thursday. If he fails to report to training camp, he would face a $30,000 fine.

Coach Jason Garrett said he did not talk to Orton or his agent and was unaware if anybody in the organization had talked to the quarterback.
IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones is the eternal optimist, as we all know.

The Dallas Cowboys defense will be without DeMarcus Ware (offseason release), Jason Hatcher (free-agent defection) and Sean Lee (torn anterior cruciate ligament), but the owner and general manager sees a defense that will be better in 2014 than it was in 2013 when it finished last in the league in yards allowed.

Jones
Jones
Why?

"Because we were so bad last year, there's no place but up," Jones said.

So there is that. The Cowboys made modest moves in free agency with the signings of Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Amobi Okoye. They re-signed Anthony Spencer, who is not likely to be ready to start training camp as he recovers from microfracture knee surgery. They drafted DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round.

Mostly they are hoping for serious improvement from within.

The Cowboys finished 19th overall in defense in 2012. Injuries ravaged the defense by the end of the season, but that did not save Rob Ryan's job.

Last year the Cowboys made a scheme change, switching from the 3-4 under Ryan to the 4-3 scheme under Monte Kiffin. They did not make serious personnel additions (Will Allen, Justin Durant) and were hoping not only for improvement from within but scheme flexibility from players drafted to play in Bill Parcells' or Wade Phillips' 3-4.

It seemed as if the Cowboys thought 2013 would be better because it could not be worse than it was at the end of 2012, but Jones disagreed with the assessment.

"I can say it this year, we are better right now," Jones said. "And I think better on the field. We're certainly better on paper than we were at the end of the season last year. Not on paper at the beginning of the season last year, but on paper right now relative to how we ended up last year."
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will gain $5.5 million in salary-cap space on Monday when the March release of Miles Austin becomes official.

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As a result, the Cowboys will temporarily have more than $10 million in cap room, but that does not mean they can spend a lot of it.

That room does not include the impending deals for first-round pick Zack Martin and second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys also have to keep money aside for players they will add during the season, injury settlements with players they release, and practice squad players.

While the Cowboys gain space this year from releasing Austin, they will see their former two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver count $5.1 million against the cap in 2015.

The Cowboys have had talks with wide receiver Dez Bryant regarding an extension. He is in the final year of his contract and set to make $1.78 million.

The Cowboys picked up the fifth-year option on left tackle Tyron Smith for 2015 but would like to sign him to a long-term deal, as well.
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:

If you want to read Part 1 of the mailbag, click here.

Away we go:

IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • When Dez Bryant might sign an extension.
  • Lance Dunbar’s roster spot with the addition of Ryan Williams.
  • The team’s best free-agent pickup
  • The state of the defensive line.
  • The best of the undrafted receivers.

Look for Part 2 of the mailbag on Saturday.

Away we go:
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have not had a flashy offseason by any stretch. Saying goodbye to the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks, DeMarcus Ware, has been the headliner, and the team did not make a real bid to keep last year’s leader in sacks, Jason Hatcher.

I offered up an offseason wrap-up on Thursday, and the ESPN Insiders have put their touches on the offseason. While Mike Sando, Bill Polian, Matt Williamson, Louis Riddick and Field Yates combined to give the Cowboys a passing grade, only two teams did worse: the Carolina Panthers (C-minus) and Indianapolis Colts (D).

To read the league-wide grades Insider, you have to be an Insider, but here is what Sando wrote about the Cowboys’ offseason:

Analysis: The Cowboys had very little salary-cap flexibility through questionable long-term planning. They lost Ware as a result and appear to be no better off on defense, which could keep Dallas in a category with Washington among teams forced to win high-scoring games to contend.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Spencer
AP Photo/James D SmithThe Cowboys need a healthy season from pass-rusher Anthony Spencer.
"They really did not do enough to aid a defense that is just bereft of playmakers, especially on the front," Polian said.

Yates gave the Cowboys a B grade and lauded their discipline, but he did not offer an enthusiastic endorsement. The other graders weren't as positive. The GM consulted for this piece gave the Cowboys a C and lamented their lack of an edge pass-rusher. The GM pointed to Anthony Spencer's suspect health and said he thought Dallas would have preferred using its first-round pick on Ryan Shazier, who came off the board one spot earlier.

"They will have to outscore people with a 34-year-old quarterback coming off back surgery," the GM said.

The Cowboys' decision to draft an offensive lineman in the first round went over well. Williamson called Zack Martin the last piece of the offensive puzzle for Dallas. Riddick also loved that pick, but he still gave the Cowboys a C-minus.

"They followed their board and beat that whole drum on that," Riddick said. "Their expectations for Demarcus Lawrence in the second round are higher than what mine are, but other than that, the defense still has major problems at safety, they are banking on Sean Lee being healthy at linebacker and there are too many problem areas overall."
My analysis of the analysis: The Cowboys could have kept Ware by restructuring his contract again, but did not want to kick the salary-cap can down the street again. They also could have made him an offer in the Terrell Suggs neighborhood ($16 million guaranteed) but never made a proposal. They were simply ready to move on.

In essence they traded Henry Melton for Hatcher. Melton is younger but coming back from an ACL tear. If he can come back, then that signing was better than keeping Hatcher, who turns 32 in July and had one great season.

Despite the supposed salary-cap constraints, they could have gone after Julius Peppers and Jared Allen and paid them big money. That might have made the Insiders happy, but it would have hamstrung their abilities to keep Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant. That’s an easy call to make, so they went after low-cost, low-risk signings like Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Amobi Okoye. Will any of them play better than Ware in 2013? That is their hope.

The Insiders also did not recognize the coaching changes. How much better will Rod Marinelli be than Monte Kiffin? I’d say that is a plus. I think Scott Linehan will be better than Bill Callahan on the offensive side of the ball. That is a plus.

The Cowboys could not answer all of their offseason questions, but they did have a “smart” offseason, and in the NFC East they should be able to compete.
IRVING, Texas -- The hospital bracelet was still on DeMarcus Lawrence's left wrist.

On Thursday morning, Lawrence saw his first son, Damari, born thanks to a FaceTime call. DeMarcus Lawrence arrived around midnight after his flight was delayed and was on a plane Friday night, arriving back in Dallas at 5:30 a.m.

“The only thing I had time for was to take a shower and get here,” the Dallas Cowboys’ second-round pick said.

[+] EnlargeDemarcus Lawrence
Ric Tapia/Icon SMICowboys rookie DeMarcus Lawrence said the recent birth of his son has had a humbling effect on him.
By the afternoon session Lawrence was able to take it off, keeping it in his locker.

The short amount of time Lawrence had with his son, who was due May 27, had a profound effect on Lawrence.

“I didn’t think a kid could change your life just by birth that way,” Lawrence said. “He made me so humble. Just made me open my eyes and make me look at the bigger picture of life.”

Lawrence is in the early stages of learning the Cowboys’ defense, but coordinator Rod Marinelli likes what he saw in Lawrence at Boise State and the brief time he has been with him.

“He’s got good stuff,” Marinelli said.

“I think he's really smooth. He's got a great feel for a reaction to movement. That's what I look for, that's something you can't test, you got to see it. He's strong in here, pad level gets down, smooth, really, really good instincts, that's our job to build on it. He's going to be a big boy, a big man.”

The Cowboys have big expectations on Lawrence, but have been careful to avoid the comparisons to DeMarcus Ware. When Ware arrived as a first-round pick in 2005, the initial spelling of his first name was Demarcus. At Boise State, Lawrence’s name was spelled with a lower-case M. He said on Saturday, it should be a capital M.

“That’s how it is on my birth certificate,” Lawrence said. “My mom always spelled my name with a capital M, so I’m going to keep it like that.”

Ware put up a team-record 119 sacks in his nine seasons. He made the Pro Bowl seven times. Lawrence had 20 sacks in two seasons at Boise State.

“They want me to come in and be the best player I can be and that’s just the pressure on me that I put on myself,” Lawrence said. “I come in with high expectations and come to get the job done.”

The Cowboys paid a price to get Lawrence in giving up a third-round pick to the Washington Redskins. If they have been shy about the Ware comparisons, they were more than willing to say he was the third-best right defensive end in the draft behind Jadeveon Clowney and Anthony Barr, who were the first and ninth picks of the draft.

“I ain’t going to put no more pressure on myself than I already have,” Lawrence said. “I feel like I’m the best and I’m just going to go out there and prove it each and every day. You can’t let your words speak. You got to let your play speak for you. That’s what I’m going to go out there and do.”
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys entered 2014 knowing they had to drastically improve their defensive line.

A better defensive line means a better Cowboys defense.

Garrett
Garrett
"This defensive scheme has been at its best when they’ve had good defensive lines," coach Jason Garrett said. "Last year we felt the effects of the injuries we had. We were decimated up there, and it affected how we played defense all the way back through the linebackers and the secondary, and felt like we had to address it and get it right.”

The Cowboys played 20 different defensive linemen in 2013. Some of them practiced for the first time on a Wednesday and played on a Sunday. The defense never received a down from Tyrone Crawford and Jeremiah "Jay" Ratliff. They received 34 snaps from Anthony Spencer. DeMarcus Ware missed the first three games of his career and had just six sacks. Jason Hatcher, who led the Cowboys with 11 sacks, missed one game.

Ware was cut and has signed with the Denver Broncos. The Cowboys made no real effort to keep Hatcher, who joined the Washington Redskins.

After the draft and college free agency, the Cowboys have 17 defensive linemen on the roster, and they might cut that number down soon. Last year, they did not draft a defensive lineman or add one as an undrafted free agent. Call this a market correction, if you want.

They signed Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Henry Melton in free agency. They re-signed Spencer to a one-year deal. They gave up their third-round pick to draft Demarcus Lawrence in the second round. In the seventh round, they added Ben Gardner and Ken Bishop.

“The obvious is the obvious,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “We were trying to emphasize defense in terms of numbers. We think that one of the ways to mitigate some of the big challenge that we have in our defensive front is numbers. Actual numbers on the field.”

Melton
The Cowboys love what George Selvie, a training camp pickup last summer, did in 2013 (seven sacks). They think he’ll be better if he plays fewer snaps. They love what Nick Hayden did as a starter in 2013, but they think he’ll be better if he plays fewer snaps.

While the Cowboys have thrown numbers at the D-line, they have not thrown cost. Melton carries the biggest cap number at $1.734 million.

But are the Cowboys better on the line? Spencer and Melton are not guaranteed to be ready for the start of training camp; both are recovering from knee injuries. McClain and Mincey have been complementary players. Selvie has to prove he is more than a one-year wonder. Crawford is coming off a torn Achilles. Lawrence will be making a big adjustment to the NFL.

A year ago at this time, on paper, Jones believed the Cowboys were stocked to make the switch to the 4-3. Then the season happened and the Cowboys were “a team that just flat was bankrupt in the defensive line last year,” Jones said. "We’re much better than what we played with."

Now, at least the Cowboys have given defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli options.

“We certainly know that is Rod’s goal, having those players biting at each other’s heels, fighting and competing," Jones said. "Our plan is to get numbers on the field.”
IRVING, Texas -- Grading drafts right after the conclusion of the selections is always tricky, but ESPN Insider Mel Kiper Jr. liked what the Dallas Cowboys did.

Kiper gave the Cowboys a "B."

To read all of the grades, here are Kiper’s marksInsider for every team, but you have to be an Insider to read it.

Here is what he wrote about the Cowboys:
Summary: Give Jerry Jones credit: I don't think it's unfair to at least be tempted by the prospect of Johnny Football with that blue star on his helmet, playing in that football theatre. But Manziel isn't making Dallas a better team in 2014, and Tony Romo -- for all the derision -- is a really good QB when he gets protection. The Dallas offensive line with Zack Martin isn't just the strength of the team, it's arguably among the top few units in the NFL. They are going to be able to run the ball. I had Martin as high as the top 10, so that's not a bad pick. I can see why Dallas added Demarcus Lawrence where it did, but a third is pricey in this draft. Devin Street addresses the depth the Cowboys really do need at WR, and they used the run of seventh-round picks to pile up some lottery tickets at need spots like safety, defensive tackle and cornerback, where Terrance Mitchell at times looked a lot better than your typical late-rounder. His 40 time didn't help, but he could stick. The Cowboys mixed in that typical moment of aggression, but in some ways they were as disciplined as any team in the draft, and they took some good shots to hit needs.

To me, it’s interesting that he is high on Mitchell. He’ll be a player to watch at the upcoming rookie weekend. He certainly has the size but he did not time well. He did, however, have five picks last season.

Dallas Cowboys draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
May 10
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NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


IRVING, Texas – A wrap-up of the Dallas Cowboys draft. Click here for a full list of Cowboys' draftees.

[+] EnlargeZack Martin
Robin Alam/Icon SMIZack Martin was the right choice for the Dallas Cowboys in the first round.
Best move: In taking Zack Martin with the 16th pick in the first round with Johnny Manziel staring at them in the face, the Cowboys made a football decision. Bravo. It did not directly help a defense that ended last in the NFL in 2013, but indirectly it could make the defense better. If the Cowboys are better along the offensive line, they can do a better job closing out games by running the ball and the defense would be on the sidelines watching. Martin started 52 games at left tackle at Notre Dame but will move to guard, most likely for Mackenzy Bernadeau, this year. He is the third offensive linemen the Cowboys have drafted in the first round in the last four seasons. The Cowboys hit on tackle Tyron Smith (2011) and center Travis Frederick (2013) and if they hit on Martin, they will make Tony Romo’s life much easier. Jason Garrett said teams win games up front, but he has been reluctant to run the ball and Scott Linehan’s offense in Detroit was pass happy. The Cowboys do not have to become a ground-and-pound team but they will have to do a better job of finishing games with the run.

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Riskiest move: The Cowboys entered the draft knowing they needed a right defensive end. When they went with Martin in the first round, the need increased, so they were willing to overpay some by giving the Washington Redskins their second (47th) and third (78) picks in order to move to the 34th pick to take Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. With how the draft fell, they had a chance to stick at their picks and take defensive linemen anyway, but none with the elite talent they believe Lawrence has to affect the quarterback. Moving up is always dangerous. The last time the Cowboys moved up significantly in a round was in 2012 when they took Morris Claiborne in the first round. Through his first two seasons, the Claiborne move has not paid off.

Most surprising move: Most of the draft experts had linebacker Anthony Hitchens as a late-round pick, but the Cowboys took him in the fourth round, No. 119 overall. He was Iowa’s defensive MVP in 2013 and led the team in tackles for two seasons with 112. He could play inside linebacker as Sean Lee’s backup and be a special teams stalwart early on. The Cowboys defense is predicated on speed and he ran a 4.7 at the scouting combine. But he was productive. He had an eye-catching 13.5 tackles for loss as a senior.

File it away: The Cowboys came into the draft needing to find help for a defense that finished last in the NFL in 2013. The Cowboys ended up with nine picks and took seven defenders to potentially help Rod Marinelli make over the unit in 2014. Five of those picks came in the seventh round, so some expectations need to be tempered, but the Cowboys were able to find a defensive end in Ben Gardner, a linebacker in Will Smith, a safety in Ahmad Dixon, a defensive tackle in Ken Bishop and defensive back Terrance Mitchell. If the Cowboys can find three players to fill roles out of that group, they should be happy.
IRVING, Texas -- It started with Orlando Scandrick in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. It moved on to Tyrone Crawford in the third round of the 2012 draft. On Friday, the Dallas Cowboys made Demarcus Lawrence the third player from Boise State they have drafted, taking him in the second round.


“We like Boise guys,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We always take a hard look at where the player has played, what kind of program (it is) and what that program is all about. They do a great job up there. It's a very competitive program. The players that come out of there compete; they play hard. We've got two of them, so we feel really good about how this guy has learned to play football and the environment he's been in.”

Garrett acknowledged the chip-on-the-shoulder factor. Executive vice president Stephen Jones mentioned another factor.

“They play with a hot motor,” Jones said. “Their motor runs high and I think that attracts people in the NFL. To play in our game, to play in the NFL you've got to have a passion for it and you've got to play every play and I think they get coached that way out there from the start out in Boise. So you see a lot of that in them and it's easy to start to like a guy. Obviously when you see some players and maybe they're not as coached up then you start to see a lot of plays off and this and that, then you start to downgrade a player. You've got to give it to them. We've looked at a lot of their guys the last 3-4 years and turn on tape and they're rolling.”

Crawford helped recruit Lawrence to Boise State.

“When I was on my visit he asked me for a pass-rush move and I told him one and he got a sack that game,” Lawrence said. “So when I get to Dallas he's got to show me some love, too.”

Crawford will be more than willing to help and serve as a mentor.

“We just like to work hard,” Crawford said of the Boise State players. “Good, character guys. I don't know what it is the Cowboys in particular that love the Boise guys but you know as Boise guys and defensive guys we do have great coaching there. We fit into the system there and we fit into the system we play here.

“We definitely feel like we can compete with anybody and even if we can't we're going to say we can. We're going to go into it like we can.”

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