Terence Newman injury will test depth

SAN ANTONIO -- It would be easier to accept the loss of Terence Newman for a month if the Dallas Cowboys had handled their business plan better.

Newman is out with a pulled groin muscle, forcing the team to push Orlando Scandrick into a starting role with Mike Jenkins and possibly using Alan Ball as the third corner. The players behind them have impressed the Cowboys' coaches in the first week of training camp, but they are unproven.

Knowing Newman's health issues the past few years, the Cowboys should have grabbed a cornerback in the draft or in free agency.

Yes, the team was spurned by Nnamdi Asomugha, who turned down a four-year, $40 million offer for a five-year, $60 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Cowboys weren't willing to pay that price for Asomugha. But other players were available on the market once free agency started last week. If the Cowboys had signed Jonathan Joseph from Cincinnati, for instance, it would have created competition at the cornerback spot.

"We had real good information that we were certainly a team he might come to, and you can't get enough corners," Jerry Jones said of Asomugha on Thursday afternoon on 103.3 FM. "I know it's speculated if we had gotten him we might have done something with Newman, but that's neither here nor there. He's a talented player, and we could have made it work."

On draft day, the Cowboys realized they needed to get an offensive lineman to help aid an aging unit. They addressed that by selecting Tyron Smith in the first round. But what they did in the second and third rounds was, shall we say, interesting. Dallas grabbed North Carolina linebacker Bruce Carter, who may very well turn out to be a quality player but is coming off a torn ACL and might not be ready to play full-time until 2012, with the eighth pick in Round 2. Cornerbacks Ras-I Dowling of Virginia and Aaron Williams of Texas were the the first two picks in that round, and Clemson's Marcus Gilchrist and Miami's Brandon Harris also went by the board.

In the third round, the Cowboys selected Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray, another player that comes in with durability issues. And guess what? Murray isn't on the field during training camp because he is recovering from a hamstring injury suffered during the lockout.

This is not to say that if the Cowboys had drafted a cornerback, that player wouldn't have been hurt. But the lack of depth behind Jenkins, Newman and Scandrick is telling.

With the CBA completed, second-year man Bryan McCann takes the field to get challenged by fifth-round pick Josh Thomas and undrafted free agents Ross Weaver and Mario Butler for a roster spot. Yet, wouldn't a veteran player or a second- and third-round pick sound better to help with the depth?

While Newman is a productive player, his health has raised concerns about his long-term durability.

He missed the 2008 opener with a groin pull, then suffered a sports hernia later that season. In 2010, he battled bruised ribs. And now it's the groin again.

"I'm always concerned because he's had a few injuries," secondary coach Dave Campo said. "And again, he's really excited about this season. I really think he will do what it takes to get himself ready. I don't think we're going to play him until he's ready, and hopefully that will be for the first ball game."

The Cowboys can't cut Newman now because he's hurt and a valuable part of their defense. But if they had some pieces in place already, maybe the Cowboys wouldn't have to worry about Newman in the short-term and, quite possibly, the long-term.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.