OT Alex Barron.
Early Draft Picks:
WR Dez Bryant, ILB Sean Lee, FS Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, OT Sam Young.
OT Flozell Adams, G Cory Procter, C Duke Preston, ILB Bobby Carpenter, FS Ken Hamlin, K Shaun Suisham.
2010 Dallas Cowboys Offense:
Going into the 2009 season, Tony Romo's combined stats for all of his December games read: 11 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, no 280-plus passing games (except against the Lions). Formerly a renowned choke artist, Romo was expected to gag again during the final month of the season. This time, however, he actually came through in the clutch.
Romo tossed six touchdowns to just two picks this recent December, completing 66.2 percent of his passes in the process. He was also very sharp in a playoff win over Philadelphia, going 23-of-35 for 244 yards and two scores. He struggled a bit the following week at Minnesota (22-35, 198, 1 INT), but that wasn't really his fault; things just fell apart when left tackle Flozell Adams left the game with an injury.
Adams is not on the team anymore, leaving Doug Free to fill the void. Free played very well in his starts at right tackle last year, but he has very little experience on the blind side. It'll be interesting to see how he performs. If he fails, the Cowboys only have Rams reject Alex Barron as a fallback option. Barron will also take over for oft-injured right tackle Marc Colombo if he gets hurt again. The good news is that Dallas is solid inside with guards Kyle Kosier and Leonard Davis, and center Andre Gurode.
Romo had the best season of his career in 2009 thanks in part to the emergence of a new No. 1 receiver. Miles Austin (or Miles Austin-Jones) seemingly came out of nowhere to post 81 receptions, 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns despite not doing much for the first quarter of the year. Austin was unstoppable toward the end, logging at least six receptions in each of his final seven contests. He reportedly has been tearing it up in minicamp, so it's highly unlikely that he's a one-hit wonder.
Thanks to character concerns and a number of stupid teams selecting atop the 2010 NFL Draft, Dallas was able to obtain Dez Bryant toward the end of the first round. The enormously talented Bryant has obviously looked great in minicamps and will start across from Austin. With Jason Witten at tight end and Patrick Crayton in the slot, the odd man out is Roy Williams, who had just two catches for 18 yards in the final three games of the regular season.
Marion Barber has been the primary ball-carrier the past couple of years, but that figures to change in 2010. Jerry Jones stated that Felix Jones will be getting the bulk of the touches from now on, which makes sense given Jones' talent and Barber's habit of wearing down. Tashard Choice will also be in the mix for touches.
2010 Dallas Cowboys Defense:
The Cowboys defense ranked second in points allowed and ninth in yardage surrendered last year. Barring injuries, there's no reason to think the unit will regress at all.
It all starts with getting to the quarterback, which is something Dallas can definitely do. Unquestionably one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL, DeMarcus Ware has 14, 20 and 11 sacks the past three seasons. The good news for the Cowboys is that Anthony Spencer is finally coming on. Spencer didn't do too much in his first two seasons as a pro, but tallied eight sacks in his final eight games of the 2009 campaign (including the playoffs). If Spencer can pick up where he left off, opposing quarterbacks don't stand a chance.
Dallas also tends to get pressure from the defensive line. Jay Ratliff, one of the premier 3-4 linemen in the league, notched six sacks in 2009 and eight sacks the year before - phenomenal numbers for any nose tackle. Marcus Spears and Igor Olshansky, two serviceable players, start next to Ratliff on the front.
The Cowboys had a huge hole at inside linebacker next to Bradie James before last season. They added Keith Brooking, who did much more than tackle and cover; Brooking became the great leader that Dallas lacked for years. He's nearly 35 and will eventually be replaced by Sean Lee, but for now, Brooking is the heart and soul of this team.
The only hole on this squad is at free safety. The beleaguered Ken Hamlin occupied the position in 2009, but is no longer with the team. Alan Ball is currently the favorite to win the job, but he's just 6-1, 188. The Cowboys will hope that fourth-round rookie Akwasi Owusu-Ansah eventually takes over, but that's just wishful thinking for now; "AOA" is sidelined with a shoulder injury until training camp, so he won't have that much time to overtake Ball.
The free safety position ruins an otherwise stellar starting secondary. No. 1 cornerback Mike Jenkins really stepped up his game last year, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl. Terence Newman, 32 in early September, isn't the same player he once was, but is still a very good No. 2 corner. Strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh is great in run support. Corner depth is an issue, however, as Orlando Scandrick struggled last season.
2010 Dallas Cowboys Schedule and Intangibles:
Prior to 2009, Dallas' record after Nov. 30 was brutal. The team was an abysmal 5-10 in December and January between 2006 and 2008. As a point of reference, they were 26-9 before Dec. 1 in the same span. However, things changed; the Cowboys were 4-2 after Nov. 30 this past season before falling to Minnesota.
Nick Folk was brilliant in his first two seasons, but struggled last year and consequently was released. David Buehler will take over even though he has never attempted a field goal in his NFL career. However, the strong-legged Buehler was highly drafted and touted by Jerry Jones.
Punter Mat McBriar enjoyed a solid season, maintaining a 45.1 average with 38-of-72 kicks inside the 20.
Though Patrick Crayton fumbled too many returns, he still managed to score twice. The Cowboys surrendered one special-teams score themselves.
The Cowboys have a pretty balanced non-divisional schedule. Tough opponents include the Colts, Titans, Texans, Saints and Vikings, but they also get to beat up on the Lions, Bears, Jaguars and Cardinals.
2010 Dallas Cowboys Analysis: The Cowboys are the most talented team in the NFL. They're stacked on both sides of the ball and have very few weaknesses on the roster.
Whether or not they can win the Super Bowl is another story - the reason obviously being the enormous liability on the sidelines. Wade Phillips is a defensive mastermind, but is also a blundering buffoon as a head coach who is always overmatched in the playoffs. It's a shame too - if the Cowboys had someone the least bit competent calling the shots, they'd be overwhelming favorites to win it all.
The Cowboys didn't have many needs going into the 2010 NFL Draft, so they could afford to take the best player available at most spots. That's exactly what they did when they traded up from No. 27 to 24 to obtain Dez Bryant. Jerry Jones has lamented passing on Randy Moss because of his character issues for 12 years. Bryant won't be as good as Moss, but he's still really talented and will make Dallas' offense even more dangerous.
Dallas made several other quality selections, including Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, who can start at free safety or eventually become Terence Newman's successor across from Mike Jenkins at corner. At the very worst, he'll provide the team with a dangerous return specialist, as well as the secondary depth it lacked in 2009.
The one thing I didn't like about Dallas' draft is that it didn't address the left guard position, which was the team's No. 2 position of need. Still, Jerry Jones had a great draft overall.
Overall 2010 NFL Draft Grade given on 4/26/10: A
2010 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
24. Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys get one of the most talented offensive prospects in this class at No. 24. Tony Romo has to be thrilled. (Pick Grade: A)
55. Sean Lee, ILB, Penn State
Sean Lee is a good player - as long as his knee holds up. The Cowboys had to find Keith Brooking's successor at some point in the 2010 NFL Draft. (Pick Grade: B)
126. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, CB/FS, Indiana of Pennsylvania
I'm not typing that name again. The Cowboys are getting a third-round prospect late in the fourth round. They needed to find some corner depth, a potential free safety and a successor for Terrence Newman. Great pick. (Pick Grade: A)
179. Sam Young, OT, Notre Dame
A potential successor for Marc Colombo, Sam Young is incredible value this late and fits the scheme. (Pick Grade: A)
196. Jamar Wall, CB, Texas Tech
Corner depth was something the Cowboys had to address. Jamar Wall fits the range. (Pick Grade: B)
234. Sean Lassimore, DE/DT, William & Mary
You figured the Cowboys would go after a 3-4 end with all of the Marcus Spears trade talks going on. Sean Lassimore is a quality seventh-round choice. (Pick Grade: B)
Supplemental-7. Joshua Price-Brent, NT, Illinois
Joshua Price-Brent is a 320-pound defensive lineman. While those don't exactly grow on trees, the fact that Price-Brent was recently in jail was the reason he was available in the seventh round of the supplemental draft in the first place. (Pick Grade: C)
Key Undrafted Free Agents:
Barry Church, SS, Toledo
Scott Sicko, TE, New Hampshire
Every year, it was the same story. The Cowboys would start hot. Then, Tony Romo would begin dating a busty blonde around Thanksgiving, and things would subsquently fall apart in December. Well, not this season. Dallas won its final three December games and then triumphed over the Eagles in the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, the team combusted in Minnesota when Flozell Adams suffered an injury and Wade Phillips remembered that he's one of the worst head coaches in the NFL.
Consider the following exchange Phillips had with a reporter after the Vikings loss:
Reporter: "Why did you try a 48-yard field goal on a 4th-and-1 when Shaun Suisham struggled from that distance all year?"
**Wade Phillips looks confused.**
Wade Phillips: "What?"
Reporter: "He struggled from that distance all year."
Wade Phillips: "That's not true..."
**Wade Phillips looks even more confused.**
Wade Phillips: "He made a 44-yarder earlier this year...???"
The funny thing here is that Suisham nailed a 48-yarder in the first round of the playoffs, which would have been a great defense for Phillips. However, Phillips didn't even remember what happened a week ago.
Steelers sign OT Flozell Adams
Ravens sign FS Ken Hamlin
Cowboys re-sign WR Miles Austin-Jones
Cowboys re-sign SS Gerald Sensabaugh
Dolphins sign G Cory Procter
Browns sign K Shaun Suisham
Cowboys cut G Cory Procter
Cowboys acquire OT Alex Barron from Rams for OLB Bobby Carpenter
Cowboys announce retirement of C Duke Preston
Cowboys re-sign S Alan Ball
Cowboys re-sign G Montrae Holland
Cowboys re-sign WR Sam Hurd
Cowboys re-sign S Pat Watkins
Cowboys re-sign DE/DT Stephen Bowen
Cowboys re-sign NT Junior Siavii
Cowboys re-sign DE/DT Jason Hatcher
Cowboys re-sign OT Pat McQuistan
Cowboys re-sign DE/OLB Steve Octavien
Cowboys re-sign DE/DT Marcus Spears
Cowboys cut FS Ken Hamlin
Cowboys cut OT Flozell Adams
Cowboys re-sign G Cory Procter
Cowboys tender DE/OLB Steve Octavien
Cowboys tender SS Gerald Sensabaugh
Cowboys tender G Cory Procter
Cowboys tender WR Sam Hurd
Head Coach: Wade Phillips is a joke. The Cowboys can't be considered serious Super Bowl contenders until they find a real head coach.
Free Safety: Ken Hamlin once again struggled in coverage this season. Free safety must be upgraded. Free agent Ryan Clark could be an option. Drafted Akwasi Owusu-Ansah
Guard: Kyle Kosier must be upgraded at left guard. The Cowboys reportedly love Mike Iupati.
Offensive Tackle: Flozell Adams was released, so Doug Free will step into the left tackle position. The Cowboys need to bring someone in to challenge Free or back up Marc Colombo. Drafted Sam Young; traded for Alex Barron
Nose Tackle: Jay Ratliff is a phenomenal player, but he's playing out of position at nose tackle. Dallas could opt to draft a nose tackle in the third round and move Ratliff to 3-4 end, especially if Marcus Spears isn't re-signed.
Inside Linebacker: Keith Brooking's leadership is a reason why the Cowboys didn't fold this December. However, he'll be 35 in October, so a long-term replacement will have to be found soon. Drafted Sean Lee
Corner Depth: There's really nothing behind Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. Drafted Jamar Wall
Punt Returner: Patrick Crayton took two punts back to the house, but he also had a lot of muffs. Drafted Akwasi Owusu-Ansah
Wide Receiver: Roy Williams stinks. Drafted Dez Bryant
2010 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Dallas Cowboys Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 8): No cap.
Miles Austin-Jones (RFA), WR, Cowboys. Age: 26. Re-signed with Cowboys (1 year, $3.1 million)
Miles Austin-Jones came out of nowhere in October to finish with 81 catches, 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns. Pretty impressive, considering he didn't even start until Week 5.
Marcus Spears (RFA), DE/DT, Cowboys. Age: 27. Re-signed with Cowboys (1 year, $1.2 million)
Marcus Spears never lived up to his billing as a first-round pick, but he has been a solid player for the Cowboys over the years. Dallas is lucky that it can keep him at a cheap value for one more year because of the CBA implications.
Divisional Rival History: New York Giants: The Giants, for whatever reason, dominate this rivalry; they've taken four of the last five meetings. Philadelphia Eagles: I guess the days of the Eagles beating the Cowboys 44-6 are long gone, huh? Dallas whipped Philly thrice in 2009. Washington Redskins: The Cowboys have won the last three meetings, but Dallas-Washington games tend to be close regardless; eight of the last 12 matchups have been decided by four points or less.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2010 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)