After yet another late-season collapse that saw more than a few warts exposed, the Dallas Cowboys seem years away from contending for the Super Bowl. With very real deficiencies throughout the secondary and along the interior of the offensive line, the team appears to need more than a few first round draft picks to shore up its weaknesses and become a legitimate contender. Unfortunately, with Tony Romo, Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware nearing the outer limits of their physical primes, Jerry Jones can't afford to wait the years it may take to solidify problem areas. If he wants his team to contend for the Vince Lombardi Trophy next season, here's what he'll need to do.
Most would consider the prospect of the Dallas Cowboys playing in next year's Super Bowl laughable; however, recent history suggests otherwise. In 2010, the New York Giants failed to qualify for the playoffs, while the San Francisco 49ers finished a lousy 6-10. When the 2011 season started, few saw these teams meeting in the NFC Championship game; but they were able to do it, thanks mostly to dominant defensive lines that had opposing passers running for their lives.
Make no mistake; Dallas has real problems in the secondary. That said, so do the Giants; however, New York is able to hide this by forcing quarterbacks to throw quickly, without being able to read through all their progressions. Prior to this season, the 49ers had a secondary filled with under-performing players many had labeled busts; but this year, it played great, thanks mostly to a dominant front seven that kept offenses from exploiting the same weakness they had in the past.
If Dallas is able to improve its defensive line; its secondary will look a whole lot better, a whole lot faster. It also needs to quickly improve its offensive line; so Tony Romo will have more time to utilize a host of explosive weapons that has the Cowboys offense on the verge of being nuclear.
How to do it
The Cowboys have only one first round draft choice, and many are predicting them to draft everything from a cornerback to an outside linebacker to an offensive guard. Truth told, they could use all three of these; unfortunately, they'll only be able to get one this early in the draft. Ideally, they'd be much better off filling some needs prior to the draft through free agency.
A guy like New Orleans OG Carl Nicks could turn what was a weakness into a strength by combining with tackles Doug Free and Tyron Smith to make the Dallas o-line young, athletic and bigger.
Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan can quickly improve the other side of the ball by moving Jay Ratliff from nose tackle to defensive end, where he can pair with Ware and prevent teams from doubling one or the other nearly as often. Most reports indicate that Houston has no intention of re-signing Mario Williams; and Jerry Jones should work hard to lure him to Dallas if given the chance.
With these changes in place, the Cowboys could use their first-round pick on a talented cornerback, and their second on a huge, space-eating blob of a nose tackle that won't do much more than demand double teams and not get moved. This will allow their young talented inside linebackers, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, to utilize their quickness and navigate between blockers, without getting swallowed up at the second level, like they were in 2011 - thanks to Ratliff being undersized at NT.
Can it happen?
Obviously, everything would need to go just right for the preceding to occur; however, during the NFL off-season, there's not much else for football fans to do but hope. With a talented group of core players already on the roster, the Dallas Cowboys do have greater potential than most realize. That said, to take the next step, they'll need a heady general manager to make some savvy moves; unfortunately, they have Jerry Jones, instead.
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