Jason Garrett trusts offense, self
Defensive-leaning draft shows Cowboys like what's in place on other side
IRVING, Texas -- How the Dallas Cowboys drafted speaks to Jason Garrett's confidence in himself.
Offensive head coaches tend to lean offensively when they compose their rosters. Defensive head coaches tend to lean defensively when they compose their rosters. It's just how the NFL go, to paraphrase Ron Washington.
Five of the Cowboys' seven 2012 draft picks play on the defensive side of the ball.
The easy answer to that type of leaning is that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan needed the most help.
The Cowboys did not finish 8-8 in 2011 because of their offense. They finished 8-8 because their defense could not hold five fourth-quarter leads. They finished one game out of the playoffs because their defense tailed off and could not make game-changing plays in the final five weeks of the season.
The Cowboys' biggest splash in free agency was giving Ryan a $50 million cornerback in Brandon Carr. The biggest splash in the draft was giving him the second-rated player on the team's draft board in cornerback Morris Claiborne, thanks to a trade up from No. 14 to No. 6 in the first round.
The offensive moves did not get fans out of their seats. Not when their sights were on bigger named guards such as Carl Nicks or Ben Grubbs. Not when the Cowboys lost last year's leader in touchdowns, wide receiver Laurent Robinson, to Jacksonville in free agency.
But the Cowboys believe Bernadeau and Livings will make center Phil Costa better because they should hold up better up the middle than last year's guards. Or perhaps Bernadeau can play center if second-year guards David Arkin or Bill Nagy progress in 2012.
Being more solid in the middle, they believe, will make Tony Romo more comfortable in the pocket. A more comfortable Romo leads to a better passing game, which leads to more points.
They also believe the addition of offensive line coach Bill Callahan will make the running game and, by extension, the red zone better.
Garrett wasn't biting Saturday after the draft. He said the Cowboys had a number of mock drafts leading up to the selections that had the club taking offensive players.
"Well, we can improve in every area of our football team," Garrett said. "We have our eyes open to that. And you have to look at every way to do that. We felt like we did a lot of that in free agency and we were certainly ready to do that in that draft. We didn't feel like our backs were to the wall where we had to take this position or that position."
The Cowboys' two offensive picks -- wide receiver Danny Coale, a fifth-rounder, and tight end James Hanna, a sixth-rounder -- could end up playing roles in 2012.
The Cowboys love Coale's versatility. He was described as a faster Patrick Crayton with a feel for the game, especially in the slot. Hanna's speed could give the Cowboys an element they did not have with last year's backup tight end, Martellus Bennett.
Speaking strictly from a skill level, there are few teams that can match that in the NFL.
Now it's up to Garrett, as the playcaller, to get this offense to produce more points. It can pile up yardage, but the 23.1 points-per-game average was 15th best in 2011 and it came with Romo having what Garrett called the quarterback's best year: 31 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and 4,184 passing yards.
With a healthy Romo (he played six games needing a painkilling injection for a broken rib), a healthy Bryant and healthy Austin (they suffered through quadriceps and hamstring injuries) and perhaps most important a healthy Murray, who had 789 yards in seven full games as the every-down back before suffering an ankle injury, the Cowboys' offense should be better in 2012.
That's what's Garrett is betting on. Those players and himself.