- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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And while it appears those players are either at their peak or emerging as dependable starters, it doesn't mean the Cowboys should ignore offensive possibilities when the NFL draft begins Thursday night.
There is uncertainty at backup tight end and wide receiver, as well as the interior of the offensive line.
While it's expected the Cowboys will select a defensive player with the No. 14 pick Thursday night, an offensive selection, such as Stanford guard David DeCastro, shouldn't be considered a surprise.
Coach Jason Garrett always talks about improving the roster and creating competition at several positions.
Guard is a big one. If Romo can feel comfortable in the pocket and not feel he has to move around, then getting a quality guard in the draft to compete with the players already on the roster should be viewed as a positive.
"None of these guys we brought in [we can] say you are the anointed starter," Garrett said last month. "They're here to create competition in our team, and we feel they are the right kind of guys individually as people but also with their talent."
That leaves just Jason Witten and John Phillips at tight end. The Cowboys are expecting a better season from Phillips, who played last season after ACL surgery.
Yet, Garrett is looking forward to seeing what Phillips can do in 2012.
"We'll continue to look at the free-agency landscape as we go, who becomes available and see if any of those guys fit for us," he said. "Sometimes, there is a feeling that free agency is those first three days. Well, free agency goes on and on and on. I think teams will make moves and we have to be open to not only tight ends but any positions where we feel the guy might help our football team. We'll continue to do that right up to the draft, right after the draft."
Laurent Robinson was a surprise last season at wide receiver. He led the team with 11 touchdowns, but he was the No. 3 receiver. The Cowboys elected not to offer Robinson a contract. But Robinson was valued so much that after he signed with Tampa Bay, Garrett spoke with him as a sign of respect.
Should the Cowboys draft a wide receiver? Not in Round 1, mind you, but in the later portions of the draft?
The Cowboys need a dependable slot receiver who isn't afraid to go over the middle and possibly return kicks and punts.
When the Cowboys drafted Harris in the sixth-round last year, they thought he could return kicks and maybe challenge Ogletree for some playing time.
Harris struggled on returns until late in the season when he picked up some rhythm.
Finding a receiver who creates competition among the backups is a must for the Cowboys.
While the defense struggled at times in 2011, there are some offensive positions that need to be addressed in the draft.
By the end of the weekend, we'll have some answers.
19hEric D. Williams
19hSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo