DALLAS COWBOYS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
The Cowboys head into 2013 with a similar cast of characters — Tony Romo throwing passes to Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Miles Austin — but things will change with head coach Jason Garrett no longer calling plays. It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys change things, especially along the O-line. This was an explosive group at times with a healthy DeMarco Murray.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
OL — Despite making changes to four of five spots last year, more are coming. Tyron Smith is the left tackle; after that it’s a lot of unknowns. OLG Nate Livings probably will start, too, but the interior needs help at center and guard. ORT Doug Free gave up snaps to Jermey Parnell and could be cut this offseason unless he drastically reduces his salary. Parnell looked OK in limited time, but do the Cowboys want him as their Week One starter? Parnell likely will receive competition.
RB— Felix Jones is an unrestricted free agent, and though he could return, the team needs far more insurance behind injury-prone starter DeMarco Murray. The other options, Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar, entered the league as undrafted players. The team could use a backup who can handle some passing-game duty and take carries when needed.
WR — Other than Dez Bryant and emerging Dwayne Harris, the team has not drafted well here. They have had some misses, and Miles Austin has stretches where he disappears. They need more options and depth here.
The team fired coordinator Rob Ryan after a two-year run and hired 72-year-old sage Monte Kiffin, who last coached in the NFL in 2008 after spending the previous four seasons coaching in college. Kiffin’s system is dramatically different than the one Ryan ran. The Cowboys will switch to a 4-3 “under” scheme that favors speed over size and will require changes at several spots.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
DL — With the defensive shift, the Cowboys need a catalytic player — a three-down scheme-wrecker who can rush the passer, collapse the pocket and stuff the run. Anthony Spencer, who would be an end in this scheme, was franchised. That locks him up for this season, but long term the position could be in flux. The Cowboys also could use help inside, too, to complement DeMarcus Ware.
OLB — The Cowboys appear set with Sean Lee in the middle and Bruce Carter on the weak side (assuming they stay healthy, of course), but there is no game-changer at the other spot. Dan Connor could fill in there, but he’s not a dynamic player.
DB — They need a safety to improve upon Gerald Sensabaugh and CB help with UFA Michael Jenkins likely to move on and Orlando Scandrick primarily an inside nickel guy. They must protect their investments in CBs Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
1st round (6): CB Morris Claiborne / LSU (GP/GS: 15/15)
Skinny: Struggled some, with only one INT. Thrived in press-man, though.
3rd round (81): DE Tyrone Crawford / Boise State (GP/GS: 16/0)
Skinny: Came on strong late in supposed “redshirt” season.
4th round (113): OLB Kyle Wilber / Wake Forest (GP/GS: 10/0)
Skinny: Played only sparingly on defense (five tackles).
4th round (135): SS Matt Johnson / Eastern Washington (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Hamstring injury put him down early but team likes him.
5th round (152): WR Danny Coale / Virginia Tech (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Suffered torn ACL after slow start in camp, preseason.
6th round (186): TE James Hanna / Oklahoma (GP/GS: 16/2)
Skinny: Stock rising: Seven of nine catches came in final four games.
7th round (222): ILB Caleb McSurdy / Montana (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Torn Achilles tendon landed him on I.R. in August.
SUMMARY: Too early to judge this class because of injuries. Claiborne could be great. Crawford, Johnson could start soon.
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