NFC East: Tyron Smith

When the Dallas Cowboys fell behind 21-3 in the first quarter Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, it meant playcaller Scott Linehan was going to have to use a lot more formations with three receivers as opposed two tight ends.

That's why receiver Cole Beasley was on the field for 45 snaps and rookie fifth-round pick Devin Street for 21. Tight end Gavin Escobar, whose role was supposed to increase, played only nine snaps. The biggest surprise is that Lance Dunbar was only on the field for three plays.

Here's a look at the snap counts played for each of the Cowboys' offensive players on Sunday:

Jason Witten: 69
Doug Free: 69
Tyron Smith: 69
Ronald Leary: 69
Travis Frederick: 69
Zack Martin: 69
Tony Romo: 69
DeMarco Murray: 61
Terrance Williams: 60
Dez Bryant: 51
Cole Beasley: 45
Devin Street: 21
James Hanna: 13
Dwayne Harris: 9
Gavin Escobar: 9
Lance Dunbar: 3
Jermey Parnell: 3
Tyler Clutts: 1
OXNARD, Calif. -- Three thoughts on Day 4 of Dallas Cowboys' training camp:

1) It was one play, just about as meaningless as can be, considering it was the first day players wore pads, but Morris Claiborne wanted to establish a tone.

Claiborne
First, he locked down Terrance Williams, forcing an incompletion. Then he jumped up and started woofing. Eventually, the players were separated.

It was the first time since he arrived that we’ve seen that type of feistiness from Claiborne.

Hey, whatever it takes. He’s been the epitome of a bust his first two seasons, allowing 70 completions in 117 attempts with only two interceptions and 13 pass deflections.

For a guy who was supposed to be the best defensive player in the 2012 draft that’s not nearly good enough.

Jason Garrett said he’s improved significantly during the offseason. It’s time for him to take it to the field.

Better secondary play is the fastest way for this defense to improve, since their pass rush remains suspect.

Smith
2) The Cowboys are moving closer to a long-term agreement with left tackle Tyron Smith, who’s going to deserve every nickel of whatever he gets.

Smith is man-handling the defensive ends on this roster, the way DeMarcus Ware used to destroy tackles, including Smith, during training camp.

Smith is only 23, so don’t be surprised if he signs a deal that’s nine or 10 years long. When he does, it’ll be interesting to see if Dez Bryant can continue to ignore his contract situation and play well.

After all, the club has already taken care of Sean Lee, who was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft. Bryant was the Cowboys’ first-round pick.

3) Kyle Wilber spent his first two seasons bouncing around between outside linebacker in the 3-4 and weakside defensive end.

Injuries last season created some playing time for him at strongside linebacker and the Cowboys suddenly found a player.

Wilber has the strength to hold the edge and consistently force running plays inside, in part because of the time he spent at defensive end, and he made several important plays for the Cowboys last season.

He finished the season with 44 tackles and two sacks, while starting six games.

34

The Cowboys were tied for 25th in the NFL with 34 sacks. Only five teams had fewer.

Their sack total was 10 fewer than the average 2013 playoff team.

Teams that don’t get many sacks often say they’re overrated. Well, they’re not. Pressure is good, but sacks are a momentum-changer and usually result in a punt at the end of the drive.

You must rush the passer and put quarterbacks under duress, or it’s hard to force turnovers and win games.

The Cowboys are counting on defensive Henry Melton, who missed the last 13 games with a torn ACL, to provide pressure up the middle. He has been a terrific pass-rusher, and they need him to command double teams to help other players get to the quarterback.

Player to Watch: Gavin Escobar

The Cowboys wasted Escobar’s rookie season. Hopefully, they’ve learned their lesson.

It’s dumb to ask a tight end who should excel at working from the slot and creating mismatches with his size to be the same type of player as Jason Witten.

Escobar can help this team by making plays downfield and giving Tony Romo one more vertical threat.

He caught nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He can be a playmaker, if Scott Linehan gives him a chance to do it. If not, he’ll be a wasted pick.

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.

Cowboys' biggest key to success

July, 10, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Since Tony Romo took over as quarterback, the success of the Dallas Cowboys has mostly centered on Romo's effectiveness.

Romo
He has played well enough in the past three seasons to throw 90 touchdown passes and get intercepted 39 times, but the Cowboys have not been able to finish better than 8-8 and have missed the playoffs. They have not qualified for the postseason since 2009.

As the Cowboys look to end the drought in 2014, Romo will remain the central part to their success, but the core of the team has changed.

While Romo and Jason Witten remain, the core of the team has become players like Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, DeMarco Murray, Orlando Scandrick, Barry Church and Sean Lee. The Cowboys have transitioned from an older team to a younger team.

Starting next year, the Cowboys will be in much better salary-cap space. The days of the Cowboys setting the market on free agents might be over. They signed cornerback Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50 million deal in 2011 and have not received the payoff. They parted ways with DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin this offseason. They did not attempt to re-sign Jason Hatcher. For a team that did not hesitate to pay age often, the Cowboys have turned almost frugal.

They have drafted better and smarter. Three of their past four first-round picks have been offensive linemen. Their drafting will never be perfect but it has been better. They have found more role players after a disastrous 2009 draft. They are trying to build the roster from the inside out as opposed to outside in.

For the Cowboys to make the jump from 8-8 to a consistent playoff team, they honestly need to continue down the same path. Patience has never been one of owner Jerry Jones’ strong suits, but the team has shown a willingness to change its ways.

If they continue to build smartly and avoid the costly mistakes that come about in free agency, the Cowboys could find themselves beginning to open up another window of opportunity as Romo and Witten wind down their careers.
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick likes to please. He especially likes to please his quarterback, Tony Romo.

As Frederick enters his second season with the Cowboys, he has one goal.

“I’m going to try and do as much as I can to take as much as I can off Tony that he was doing before for the offensive line,” he said. “Not necessarily because I was a rookie or this or that, but because, if I can see it better, that’s going to take one thing off his plate and that’s going to help the team as a whole.”

Frederick
Romo
Part of Romo’s responsibility is setting the protections with calling out the middle linebacker. The offensive line follows the assignment. If Frederick can take that responsibility away from Romo, then Romo can worry more about the coverage.

When Romo and Frederick watch film of practices or games, they discuss what worked and didn’t work, what they might do differently the next time.

“I think what really has helped is going through the season last year,” Frederick said. “It’s literally about situations. You can talk about as many situations as you can think of and still see 50 more. It’s about being in situations and maybe you make a mistake. Maybe last year I’d change the Mike (linebacker call) on something and he would rather have kept it. After it happened, he told me, ‘OK, this is what I would’ve done.’ Now in the next situation I can do it.”

It’s not just about making Romo’s life easier. If Frederick can do more, he makes it easier for his fellow linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Doug Free, Ronald Leary or Mackenzy Bernadeau.

“The more I can communicate, the better Zack’s going to be able to do, the better Tyron is going to be able to do, the better Doug’s going to be able to do,” Frederick said. “When that happens, everybody can move faster and play faster and they don’t have to think. If I can think more than I did last year, then it makes it less that everybody else has to think about.”

There is a physical adjustment Frederick has made this offseason, too.

“Hand placement has been a big thing for me,” Frederick said. “In college it’s just about getting it done. If you’re strong, you have a better opportunity because no matter where you grab usually you can just hold on. But in the NFL with the great talent we play against and even here in who we practice against every day, you really have to focus on where you’re playing your hands and an inch can make a huge difference.”
The Dallas Cowboys haven't made the signing of guard Uche Nwaneri official because they have to make a roster move first.

Nwaneri
Moving Sean Lee to injured reserve, thus clearing space when training camp starts, is one possibility. The Nwaneri signing means the Cowboys want to add experienced depth to an offensive line that is getting younger at its core.

Four potential starters are each under 25 -- Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Tyron Smith.

Smith, 23, anchors the left tackle spot and is coming off a Pro Bowl season. The team picked up his vested option for next season and has plans to give him a long-term deal.

Martin, 23, was a first-round draft pick this year and will play right guard with the potential to move to right tackle in the future.

Frederick, also 23 and last year's first-round pick, was solid at center and appears ready for a long-term future with the Cowboys.

Mackenzy Bernadeau is 28 and he's competing for a starting left guard spot with Leary.

The old man of the group if you will, is 30-year-old Doug Free, who played well in 2013 after taking a pay cut. The Cowboys value him. The question is for how long, considering they have Martin on the roster as well as two younger tackles, Darrion Weems and Jermey Parnell.

Nwaneri is 30. If he makes the team, he's got eight years of experience and adds depth to the interior of the line, which is important to the Cowboys.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has said protecting Tony Romo up the gut is essential considering the quarterback is coming off back surgery.

This offseason, the Cowboys devoted themselves to getting younger and as one team official said, youth is important.

When you stick with youth, mistakes happen, and the Cowboys are willing to deal with that -- at least right now.

But there is nothing wrong with adding an experienced player to the line, and if Nwaneri's deal is completed that's what the Cowboys will have accomplished.
IRVING, Texas -- Much of the contract talk surrounding the Dallas Cowboys these days has surrounded wide receiver Dez Bryant.

Smith
Bryant is entering the final year of his contract and his agent, Eugene Parker, has had dialogue with the Cowboys about an extension. The Cowboys have made it known they want to keep Bryant with a long-term contract as well.

They also want to keep left tackle Tyron Smith.

The Cowboys recently picked up the fifth-year option, which guarantees he will be with the team in 2015, but the Cowboys want to lock up their Pro Bowl left tackle as well.

"Not really focused on that at all," Smith said from the Cowboys' annual sponsors' golf tournament. "Just focused on this one year right now."

Smith is on the books for $10.039 million in 2015 thanks to the option. He is in the final year of a four-year deal he signed in 2011 as the first-round pick, worth $12.49 million.

"I'm happy they picked up my fifth year and just glad I get to stay in Dallas," Smith said. "I love it out here and it's a great town. The fans are great too."

Whenever the Cowboys and Smith come to a deal, it will be a huge one.

Seven offensive linemen carry cap figures of $10 million or more in 2014. Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas has the highest per-year salary average at $11.5 million. The Washington Redskins guaranteed left tackle Trent Williams $36.75 million in 2010 with a $10 million a year average. Thomas was guaranteed $29.5 million by the Browns in 2011.

In 2012, the New York Jets re-signed D'Brickashaw Ferguson to a deal that included $32.4 million guaranteed.

Smith has time on his side. He does not turn 24 until December. In fact, he is younger than the Cowboys' last two first-round picks, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin.
IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys selected Zack Martin in the first round of last month's draft, Mackenzy Bernadeau didn't need to be told what it meant.

Like first-round picks before him on the offensive line, Tyron Smith (2011) and Travis Frederick (2013), Martin is being plugged in as a starter. The Cowboys have plugged him in at right guard, where Bernadeau has started 26 games the last two seasons.

"I know the business," Bernadeau said. "I know he's going to come in and play somewhere. Not knowing obviously where it's going to happen but I was prepped to know if he's ready to come in take the right side I'll be competing or trying to play the left side or just be ready to prepare to if I need to play all three interior positions. I knew myself and I didn't have to have a conversation with anybody."

Bernadeau has worked with the first team at left guard during the organized team activities and will compete with Ronald Leary for a starting spot. Leary started every game at left guard in 2013. Bernadeau has been taking some backup center snaps as well.

"Since I've been here I'm always going to be ready for all three spots, left side, center, right side," Bernadeau said. "I'm always prepping for that."

Bernadeau, who accepted a pay cut during the offseason over the next two seasons, played left guard for the Carolina Panthers. He said the difference between playing on the right or left side is, "like learning to write with your left hand instead of your right hand," but his previous experience helps.

He had to get used to right tackle Doug Free the last two years, but has spent time getting used to playing next to Tyron Smith in 2014.

"It's more important to get used to the guys next to you and what their steps are than the techniques because I played both sides before," Bernadeau said.

Perhaps most importantly for Bernadeau is that he is on the field at all in the offseason. He missed his first offseason with the Cowboys because of hip surgery and was limited last year because of shoulder surgery.

"It's great to be able to get a full offseason in," Bernadeau said. "Hopefully I'll stay healthy."
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 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 -- As the Dallas Cowboys' first-round pick, all eyes were on guard Zack Martin at the first rookie minicamp practice.

And not just the coaches, scouts, front office and media.

A handful of veteran offensive linemen watched the drills Friday, led by Doug Free, Tyron Smith and Mackenzy Bernadeau.

"They just want to see us work," Martin said. "And if we’re going to be part of that group, they want to make sure and know what they’re getting."

After starting all but two of his 52 games at Notre Dame, Martin lined up at right guard on Friday. Bernadeau started 26 games the past two seasons at right guard. Ronald Leary started at left guard in 2013.

"It's really just a starting point, first time he's been out there," coach Jason Garrett said. "We see his position flex and his versatility. We actually see him starting inside more than we see him starting outside. We'll have great competition all throughout our offensive line, particularly in the interior of our offensive line. It seems like it's a pretty natural fit for him. He typically played on the left hand side, played left tackle, but his position flex is something we thought was a real asset. He's a smart football player. He has a lot of poise about him and doesn't seem to be fazed by a whole lot.”

The Cowboys threw 2013 first-round pick, Travis Frederick, into the starting lineup from the beginning last year. Martin said he does not expect it to take long to get comfortable inside.

“Playing inside, the guys are a lot tighter,” he said. “Everything is closer together, so out on the edge you’ve got room to maneuver. Inside you’ve got to have tighter footwork and be more aware.”

And if he needs any pointers, the veterans will be there.

“Just helping with techniques,” Martin said. “Technique is something you’ve got to get. They’re like another coach on the field. Doug’s been through it a bunch of years now. Maybe if he sees something the coaches don’t see, he’ll correct me.”

Cowboys' rookie pool set

May, 14, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have a rookie pool of $5.792 million to sign their nine draft picks and undrafted free agents.

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Several teams have already started signing their draft picks and it is something the Cowboys could start to do at this weekend's rookie minicamp. Last year the Cowboys signed DeVonte Holloman, Joseph Randle and B.W. Webb in a five-day span in May. The entire draft class was signed by the end of June.

The Cowboys kick off a two-day minicamp Friday and could look to wrap up deals with picks in Rounds 4-7: Anthony Hitchens, Devin Street, Ben Gardner, Will Smith, Ahmad Dixon, Ken Bishop and Terrance Mitchell.

With the new collective bargaining agreement there is little negotiating involved, making the deals easy to reach conclusions. The late-round picks will receive base salaries of $420,000, $510,000, $600,000 and $690,000 on their four-year deals. All of the draft picks will receive four-year deals but the Cowboys will hold a fifth-year option on first rounder Zack Martin.

The Cowboys have $5.5 million in salary-cap space and will gain another $5.5 million in salary-cap space when Miles Austin's contract comes off the books June 2.

The extra space could help the Cowboys in securing long-term deals for Dez Bryant or Tyron Smith over the summer. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said during the draft the teams hopes to start talks with Smith's agent, "sooner rather than later."

Cowboys done with OL rebuild

May, 14, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Pam Martin asked her son to do some research on the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line, so the team’s first-round pick dutifully did what his mother told him.

Zack Martin quickly realized he was older than Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, the other two first-round picks Martin will join on the line in 2014. Smith, the 2011 first rounder, was born Dec. 12, 1990. Frederick, the 2013 first rounder, was born march 18, 1991.

Martin was born Nov. 20, 1990.

[+] EnlargeZack Martin
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsNotre Dame's Zack Martin is the latest first-round pick Dallas has added to its young offensive line.
“That’s a little weird,” Martin said.

Weird and potentially terrific for the Cowboys. Before Smith, Jerry Jones never used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman. Tom Landry, Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt also kept their distance from the offensive line. Before Smith, Howard Richards was the most recent first-round offensive lineman, coming in 1981 with the 26th overall pick.

Now the Cowboys are like the San Francisco 49ers with three first-round starters on the offensive line. In 2007, the Niners took Joe Staley. In 2010, they added Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis.

“We believe games in the National Football League are won up front,” coach Jason Garrett said. “If you look at the best teams in the league now and for a lot of years, they are able to control the line of scrimmage on the offensive side of the ball. We did that for years here when we won championships here in the ‘90s. You need to build the infrastructure of your team.”

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San Francisco went 6-10 in 2010, but has gone 36-11-1 in the past three seasons. They have played in three straight NFC Championship Games, making it to the Super Bowl in 2012.

“We’ve been pretty lucky getting (Andre) Gurode, getting the Flozell Adamses and Larry Allens (in the second round), but those days are over apparently,” Jones said. “So we want to get some of that quality in the future offensive line. These guys are long-term players that are good, and all of that is about franchise.”

The Cowboys have an offensive line that can grow together.

Smith made his first Pro Bowl last season and is the best young tackle in the NFL. Frederick started every game as a rookie and cemented the interior of the Cowboys’ line. Martin will be a Day 1 starter and was considered the safest pick in the draft.

Right tackle Doug Free is the oldest up front and is just 30. Ronald Leary recently turned 25. Mackenzy Bernadeau, who could still compete for a starting job, is just 28.

Having Smith, Frederick and Martin grow together should make everyone associated with the Cowboys’ offense happier, from Garrett to passing game coordinator Scott Linehan to assistant head coach Bill Callahan to quarterback Tony Romo and running back DeMarco Murray.

The selection of Martin ends the rebuilding of an offensive line that started in 2011 when the Cowboys parted ways with Gurode, Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo. A year later they said goodbye to Kyle Kosier.

It took time.

In 2011, the Cowboys started a seventh-round pick, Bill Nagy, at left guard and a second-year undrafted center in Phil Costa. When Nagy got hurt, they looked to journeymen Montrae Holland and Derrick Dockery.

Smith played as a rookie at right tackle and needed 2012 to be seasoned as a left tackle. Nate Livings was signed as a free agent in 2012, but injuries led the team away from him last season. Bernadeau’s play improved last year after he re-took the right guard spot following Brian Waters' season-ending triceps’ injury.

“We are going to be a better offensive line, a better offense, and we will probably play better defense the better we play on the offensive line,” Garrett said. “We will be able to run the ball better and control the football a little more.”
IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said after the NFL draft that his team is better.

The Cowboys made upgrades to the offensive line, getting Zack Martin in the first round, the defensive line, selecting Demarcus Lawrence in second round, and adding depth to the linebacker corps with fourth-round pick Anthony Hitchens and seventh-rounder Will Smith.

"No question, we are younger. We are better," Jones said. "We will have over 30 players between our draft picks and our free agents. That's one-third of our team drafted or signed over the last three days. We will end up cutting a lot of players when we are through signing everybody."

The younger part is the key. The Cowboys allowed two defensive linemen, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, to leave in free agency because of financial reasons and age. Both are age 31 and while the Cowboys re-signed Anthony Spencer, who is 30, there are no guarantees he'll recover from microfracture surgery in time to start the 2014 season.

The Cowboys replaced Hatcher with 27-year-old Henry Melton and then added Lawrence, 22, to replace Ware as the left defensive end.

Along the offensive line, the Cowboys' addition of Martin brings youth to the unit. On Saturday, while talking with reporters, Martin joked he was older, 24, than two current linemen in Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith, both 23.

"We feel like, hey, we need to get younger," Jones said. "We need to give some young guys a chance to show [what they can do]. We got better."

Dallas Cowboys draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
May 10
7:46
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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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Which Cowboys draft pick are you most excited about?

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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.

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