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Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Cowboys' on-field concerns remain the same

By Dan Graziano

Our man Matt Williamson has graded each NFC team's offseason, and you can see all of the grades here Insider. I'll do a separate post on each of Matt's NFC East reviews, and I'll start with the Dallas Cowboys, who get a C. Matt liked the Cowboys' draft, writing that they "drafted good football players" and that the offensive draft picks in the early rounds will help diversify the offense around Tony Romo.

But overall, he thinks their free-agent losses outweigh the additions (of which they couldn't make many because of salary-cap concerns), and that their biggest 2013 question marks are basically the same as the ones that hurt them in 2012 and 2011 and 2010 -- the strength of the offensive and defensive lines:
Obviously the Cowboys' veteran "key losses" are far greater than their "key additions," but they did add quality through the draft. Still, their ability to consistently win at the line of scrimmage on offense and defense remains a concern.

And he's right, of course. The Cowboys are loaded with skill-position talent on both sides of the ball, but their ability to score points on offense will rise and fall on the ability of their offensive line to hold up better than it did last season. Poor offensive line play can completely sink an otherwise competent offense, and too often that's been the story for the Cowboys in recent years.

On the flip side, their defense is loaded with playmakers at linebacker and cornerback. And I actually think their starting four defensive linemen are very good. But any defensive line needs depth, and must rotate players in to keep its stars fresh as the season goes along, and the group behind DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff is unproven. So I think that's what Matt sees when he writes that they could have used reinforcements there.

Ultimately, we'll find out. The Dallas lines could play better than expected, in which case they could have a great team. But as question-mark areas go, the line of scrimmage is not one around which most teams can work. Did the Cowboys do enough this offseason to get stronger there? It's hard to make the case that they did. Other than first-round pick Travis Frederick, the help is going to have to come from players they already had on the roster exceeding past performance and present expectations.