Dallas Cowboys: 10 Changes Needed After 2010 Season
After a horrid start to the 2010 campaign, the Cowboys have finally begun to right the ship. Unfortunately, their playoff hopes have sailed. The primary goal is always to win football games, but a close eye should be kept on the 2011 season. Here are 10 changes the Cowboys will look at making in the offseason to ensure that 2011 in no way resembles 2010.
10. Find Terence Newman’s eventual replacement
Newman certainly still has something left in the tank, but signs of his age are apparent. The Cowboys have been really poor at diagnosing potential problems before they become disastrous, i.e. this year’s offensive line. Dallas needs to find Newman’s replacement before he is a liability.
On a side note, I think the Cowboys might want to experiment with Newman at free safety a bit next season. Although tackling is completely different from the safety spot, I think Newman could handle it. At worst, he’d be comparable to Alan Ball. Plus, I think Newman’s ball skills are far superior when he’s in zone coverage as opposed to man-to-man.
9. Move Alan Ball back to cornerback
Ball has improved at free safety as of late, but he still leaves much to be desired. Moving him back to cornerback might be an option if the team finds itself weak at the cornerback spot. Don’t forget the Cowboys have promising rookie Akwasi Owusu-Ansah returning in 2011 and, if Newman can make the jump to free safety, Ball could return to his old spot. His versatility will help the ‘Boys no matter where he plays, but he’s probably better suited as a two-position backup than a starter.
8. Make Dez Bryant a focal point of the offense
It’s really unfortunate that Bryant is out for the season, but the Cowboys saw glimpses of a true playmaker this year. Bryant’s attitude, effort, and talent are undeniable. I love Miles Austin, but Bryant may already be the best receiver on this team. He should be the No. 1 option on offense in 2011, or at least 1A.
7. Cut Marion Barber
If you couldn’t tell Barber is slowing down, Tashard Choice’s game last week lets you know just how poor Barber was playing. The difference between the two players is monumental. The fact that Barber was starting so far into the season is a tragedy, and his presence on the roster in 2011 would be even more of one.
In my view, the Cowboys’ top two running backs are already on the roster. . .they just need to find that third guy.
6. Replace Keith Brooking
I loved Brooking’s addition to the Cowboys last season, but his diminishing skills are overriding his incredible leadership and experience. He’s been just okay against the run this season, but absolutely horrible in coverage. He has poor hips and fails to break down in space. It’s time for Sean Lee.
5. Overhaul defensive end position
Igor Olshansky. Marcus Spears. Stephen Bowen. Jason Hatcher. Not a single defensive end on the Cowboys is of starting quality, in my opinion. All four players are extremely limited in what they do, and only Hatcher has played up to his potential (at times) this season. The poor play of the defensive ends has been the primary reason for Anthony Spencer’s sub-par season, as offenses know they can block any of the ends with ease.
I think Hatcher will stay in 2011, but the others should go. Look for the Cowboys to address this spot early and often in the draft.
4. Cut Marc Colombo
I haven’t watched every right tackle in the league this year, but I still feel confident in saying Colombo has been one of the worst. He’s been below average in the run game (which is sad), and we all know how much he struggles in pass protection. By my count, he’s given up a team-high five sacks, and that’s with a ton of help from the tight ends and running backs. I have a bad feeling Colombo will open next season as a starter, but the Cowboys would be better off with Sam Young.
3. Find a placekicker
Opinions on Buehler are mixed, but I think he needs to go back to his role as a kickoff specialist. I’ve shown in the past how incredible the difference is between a great kicker and a poor one. The Cowboys are sure to improve in 2011, and they cannot let an inaccurate field goal kicker ruin their playoff hopes.
2. Give Tashard Choice, Martellus Bennett, Victor Butler, and Sean Lee more playing time
Choice and Lee are obvious, but many people might be surprised to see the other two names on this list. Don’t be. While I love Jason Witten and think he is still one of the better tight ends in the league, it’s clear he has lost a step. Bennett has been solid when called upon as a receiver this season and, once again, one of the team’s best blockers. Actually, I would feel more comfortable with him at right tackle than Colombo. That’s not a joke.
Butler has shown he simply has a knack for getting to the quarterback. He’s explosive off the ball and vastly improved in his run defense. If he continues on this path (and Spencer doesn’t improve), he should compete for a starting job next season.
1. Make Jason Garrett the full-time head coach
This is hard for me to say, as I basically ripped Garrett all offseason, but I will give credit where it is due. Despite a slight drop in numbers, Garrett is vastly improved as a play-caller in 2010. I will conduct a bunch of studies on Garrett once the season concludes, but I already notice he is dialing up more weak side runs (see study on weak side runs here), more 3rd down runs (see study on 3rd down runs here), and less predictable play-calling based on personnel (see personnel-based play-calling stats here).
His 3-1 record as a head coach thus far is impressive, but the intelligence and heart with which the team is playing is an even bigger sign of things to come. Garrett has proven to me that he possesses the smarts, attention to detail, and ability to adapt that will make him a successful coach for the Dallas Cowboys in 2011 and beyond.