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Top Five Things Dallas Cowboys Must Do Before Start of 2011 Season | The DC Times

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Top Five Things Dallas Cowboys Must Do Before Start of 2011 Season

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Jonathan Bales

Despite a horrific 2010 season, the ‘Boys are still in position to make a run this year.  Here is what they need to do to escalate their opportunity for success. . .

5. Hold Open Kicking Competition

I know a lot of DCT readers disagree with me on this, but I don’t think David Buehler should be kicking field goals for the Cowboys in 2011.  Buehler should be given a fair shake at winning all kicking duties and, unless he wins handily in training camp (unlikely), he should remain on the roster as a kickoff specialist/special-teamer only.  I realize using two roster spots on kickers is less than ideal, but the alternative is potentially watching Buehler shank field goals and extra points again.  Plus, Buehler’s special teams ability makes it more like using 1.5 roster spots.

One of the first articles I did on this site was a study of the importance of kickers.  I concluded that the difference between a top kicker (90 percent accuracy) and a sub-par one (70 percent accuracy) is an “extra” win per season.  Even with the inherent unpredictability of kickers’ performances, that is a substantial enough difference for me to be fine with two kickers on the roster.   I like Kris Brown and, if I had to predict right now, I’d say he will be kicking field goals for the ‘Boys this season.  I’m okay with him, or another quality veteran.  Buehler can continue to develop and work on his craft while learning behind a veteran.

It is worth noting that one of the perks of having Buehler kick field goals is that, because he is erratic, Jason Garrett was (and will be) more likely to go for it on fourth down.  He should be doing that more anyway (and I think he knows it), so Buehler’s presence as the placekicker is a built-in excuse for Garrett to make what is the statistically correct decision anyway.

4. Re-Sign Doug Free, Kyle Kosier, Stephen Bowen and Gerald Sensabaugh

Re-signing Doug Free should really be the Cowboys’ top offseason priority.  He proved he is a very solid (but not yet spectacular) tackle last season, yielding only three sacks and seven quarterback hits at the most difficult-to-play position on the line.  I gave him a B- for the season in my 2010 Offensive Line Grades.  I think Kosier deserves a two-year contract, and I’ve already explained why here.

I think the Cowboys should let Jason Hatcher walk and re-sign Bowen.  He’s a superior player with a better pass-rush repertoire, even if he has not yet lived up to his potential.  His production should improve with Rob Ryan in town.

The B+ grade I provided Sensabaugh in my 2010 Safety Grades was one of the highest on the entire team.  He allowed only 6.95 yards-per-attempt and one touchdown in 2011, compared to 10.07 and seven for Alan Ball (yes, Ball’s free safety spot is more difficult to play, but not by that much).  Since there are an abundance of talented safeties on the market and I am higher on Sensabaugh than most, I think the ‘Boys should be able to re-sign him for a reasonable price.

3. Cut Marc Colombo, Marion Barber and Igor Olshansky

The first two are so obvious I won’t even talk about them.  The last one might be less clear because, if the ‘Boys re-sign Bowen but let Hatcher walk, they could be dangerously thin at defensive end.  Of course, the position could be upgraded in a big way if a certain nose tackle who is already on the roster kicks outside.

“But the Cowboys don’t have a nose tackle to take over for Jay Ratliff if he moves to end!?”. . .read on.

2. Sign Free Agents Michael Huff and Aubrayo Franklin

Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin is going to be a free agent and, in my opinion, he’s an extremely underrated player.  The Cowboys may have to compete with a few other teams, including the Redskins, for Franklin’s services.  If they can land him, though, the upgrade at both nose tackle and defensive end would be enormous.  Pro Football Focus rated Franklin as the 13th best defensive tackle and No. 2 run-stuffing defensive tackle in the NFL in 2010.  He deserves those accolades.

Another player on whom both PFF and I are high is Michael Huff.  Huff has been heavily linked to Dallas, and at this point, I would consider it a minor upset if he is not wearing a star on his helmet in 2011.

1. Hand Sean Lee Starting Job

I’m fine with Keith Brooking staying on the team (I’m indifferent, really), as long as he is a role player and leader.  There is no way he should be starting or receiving significant snaps at inside linebacker.

I wasn’t high on Lee at the start of the 2010 season, but I sure am now.  His improvement over the course of the year was staggering, and you can bet he will have made significant improvements to his game by the time the 2011 season begins.  I gave him a B- and rated him as the Cowboys’ top inside linebacker in my 2010 Inside Linebacker Grades.  I think he has a chance to be an “A- player” this year.

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10 Responses to Top Five Things Dallas Cowboys Must Do Before Start of 2011 Season

  1. Tyrone Jenkins says:


    Why you back away from Cullen Jenkins at NT?

    Also, if the Boys cut Colombo, Barber and Olshansky, they should at least be saving $7-9mil toward the cap. If they were to cut Newman as well, that’d be enough to sign those FAs you mentioned AND Asomugha.

    Just a thought…

  2. Tyrone…still like Jenkins at DE, not NT, and I would be pretty happy if the Cowboys sign him. I would prefer Franklin, however, because I think it upgrades two positions as opposed to the one that Jenkins would upgrade.

    Not certain they can sign Franklin, Huff AND Asomugha because I think Franklin will get more $ than people expect due to being one of the only true talented FA NTs, but that sure would be a nice scenario.

  3. starred4life says:

    I agree absolutely with each suggestion. I wonder, however, if Donte Whitner might be a better acquisition at safety. I’ll admit I haven’t watched either all that closely, but I have noticed that a lot of the Raiders fans aren’t sorry to see Huff let go. While everything I’ve read about Whitner is that he’s very solid, if not flashy. He also was ranked as the seventh best safety in the league on a recent obligatory offseason 10 best list (Huff didn’t receive a vote).

    I really like the Aubrayo Franklin idea, and I’m also anxious to see more of Sean Lee. But hopefully at the expense of Brooking, not James (who I believe he’ll eventually replace).

    I noticed you had no CB on the wish list. I think hoping two CB’s bounce back, might be wishful thinking. I’d feel better if we could replace Newman with someone solid and about six years younger. Johnathan Joseph tops my list (but his availability is tied to the CBA). And pair him with Scandrick (If Jenkins doesn’t return to form).

  4. Rick says:

    I agree it’d be an upset if Huff isn’t in Dallas next year, but I disapprove. The guy was terrible when Rob Ryan was his coordinator. Also, he only magically became a Pro Bowl caliber player in his contract year. Is that not suspicious? I’ve heard a lot of Raider fans indicate that they expect him gone and don’t really care.

    Franklin’s pretty much the same, in that he never really tried hard until his contract years (he was franchised and thus had 2). And like you said, he’s going to make a lot of money on the open market by virtue of being the only legitimate starting nose tackle.

  5. Vince_Grey says:

    5. Still dislike the idea of carrying two kickers. Rather go with one, (Whoever) and carry another position player or a kick-ass special teamer. Before you know it, someone will suggest the merits of having a kickoff guy, a punter, a short FG guy and a long FG guy. Sheesh!

    4. No real issues with anything here, but it’s interesting how different people see the same thing quite the opposite. You rate Free’s run-blocking a pedestrian C+ but him a very good B+ as a pass protector, while over at Pro Football Focus, they called him “a beast” as a run blocker but say his pass blocking needs a lot of work.

    3. Agree.

    2. I see Huff as a slight upgrade at best. His play against the run is sub-standard (Like our current group), and he’s not a particularly hard hitter (Like our current group). The only upgrade he might offer is as a pass defender, but then there’s the issue that Rick brought up, with the guy suddenly playing so well in the last year of his contract. The last thing I want is another Ken (One year wonder) Hamlin situation.

    On the Franklin guy, once again we have a player spiking up in his contract year. I always look at that suspiciously. Plus, if Snyder really wants him, he’ll be a Redskin. It’s not that JJ can’t outbid Danny Boy, but as Snyder vastly over-pays for free agents, why would he want too?

    1. I sort of agree with your sentiment, though I dislike your wordage. I don’t want any Cowboy to have his job automatically handed to him. I want the guy to earn it fairly on the field.

  6. Jonny Danger says:

    Please post more stuff I don’t care what it is haha. I tried reading things from DC.com because I needed a Cowboy fix. However, now I believe I have I lost some brain cells. The fan comments are especially horrendous. Its like a train wreck I can’t look away and keep reading more and more of their crap.

  7. haha thanks Jonny….I have been working on some other stuff and figured now was the best time to do that during the lockout, but I will have a post for you soon.

  8. john coleman says:

    Kicking- I DO NOT agree with eating up an extra roster spot for a kickoff specialist. The competition I am fine with. Let the best man win. Touchbacks are not as important if you have good coverage units. Also there is a rule change which will add a little more leg to short legged kickers. We definitely must have someone who is automatic on extra points. Hopefully we will keep the Right guys to make our coverage units better.

    Resign-Defintely! I am also not convinced that Spears doesn’t need to be retained. IMO our run defense was defintely stronger with him. He also might surprise people in a new scheme as far as getting to the QB. To me Hatcher would be the odd man out. Free is a must whether he plays LT or RT. We also need to allow him to get downfield and block. I look for the playcalling to change a little to better use both he and Smith as downfield blockers in the run and screen game. Concerning Sensabaugh, we definitely need him one more season. I don’t see Church or McCray making the leap to starter. In fact, I’m not even sure they make the team. If we can pick up Deunta Wlliams and or DeAndre McDaniel they could both be gone. Save the special teams stuff with McCray. If that’s all a guy can do, he is a liability. Special teamers must be able to step in and play if needed at their real position.


    Sign- A FS is a must. Huff also makes sense because he has played for RR. With the shortened traing season that could be a huge plus. As far as Franklin goes, it would be nice, but DON’T overpay for any d-line player.

    Start-He should be ready and I’m all for it. However I am also for retaining Brooking if he is healthy. The exception would be if RR has a guy or two in FA that can also help on special teams. Brooking brings some intangibles that would have to be replaced.

  9. Knowbody says:

    Please forget about signing any Corners. We dont need Nnamdi @15 mil per season. Thats the equivelent of 3-4 players salary cap to use for 1 guy. No way. We need D-Line and a Safety. I’d prefer to sign Cullen Jenkins who is a very productive sack guy and if we got Frankin on the nose I’d nut on myself. Lets just say you paid them 5-6 mil per season thats only average of 11 mil for them both. Then you still have 4 mil left out of that non Nnamdi used money to get a 4 mil a year safety, Thats the route I would go. I think if we become like the Giants, Pitt ,Ravens up front we’d be better off defensively. None of those teams have great corners either but they all have pretty darn good Free Safeties. Thats what we need. So add in Weddle or Huff and Im nutting again.

  10. valmont says:

    I’m not sure Franklin, a run stuffing NT, is the cure to what ails the Cowboys (an inability to defend the pass). Dallas’ run defense was slightly better than league average but whatever, make a run stuffing NT a free agent priority.

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