7 Reasons Jerry Jones Will Be NFL GM of the Year in 2012
America's team hasn't had the level of success the last 16 seasons that fans have come to expect, winning only one playoff game in that span.
That will change in 2012.
Jones has made the roster moves necessary for this team to find playoff success. For the first time in years, the Cowboys should find themselves playing deep into the postseason.
Plus, Jerry has finally put together a complete roster that has everything needed to contend. So here are seven reasons that Jones will be NFL executive of the year in 2012.
He Made a Brilliant Draft Day Move by Trading Up for Morris Claiborne
The Cowboys surprised everyone this past April when they jumped up to the No. 6 spot to select cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Claiborne was the top defensive player on Dallas' draft board, and when he started to slide, Jones saw an opportunity.
He quickly worked out a trade with the Rams for the No. 6 pick and jumped at the chance to select an impact like Claiborne in the first round.
Corner was the Cowboys' biggest area of need heading into the offseason, and Jones did a great job of shoring up the position with this bold pick.
Claiborne was the best cover corner in the draft. He has all of the skills to be successful on the NFL level, and should be patrolling the Cowboys secondary for years.
By the end of this season Claiborne will be shutting down the opponents' best receiver every game, and Cowboys fans have Jones to thank for that.
Upgraded a Weakness on the Offensive Line
Last season the Cowboys allowed 39 sacks, 81 quarterback hits and Tony Romo spent almost as much time scrambling in the pocket as he did scanning the defense.
It's safe to say that the Cowboys' O-line wasn’t sufficient in 2011.
Heading in to the offseason Jones made shoring up the offensive line a top priority, and his roster moves will pay dividends this season.
Jones released under-performing guards Montrae Holland and Kyle Kosier, in favor a pair of younger offensive linemen in free agency—Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. Both of whom should be able to step in right away and start at guard.
However, the best personal decision this offseason on the O-line involved players that were already on the roster.
The Cowboys coaching staff decided to move Tyron Smith to left tackle and Doug Free to the right side. This is a change that will alleviate a lot of pressure that Romo dealt with last season.
Free will be more comfortable in his more natural position on the right side, and Smith has the talent and the frame to be a great left tackle.
Jones knew that the line was an area of weakness heading into the offseason and he made the necessary to shore it up.
Jones' Unheralded Signings Will Really Pay off
Middle linebacker and fullback aren’t glamorous positions on the gridiron, but two of the Cowboys most important signing were at these spots.
The signing of middle linebacker Dan Connor went largely unnoticed this offseason, but he could potentially be the steal of the spring for Dallas.
Connor is just a solid football player. He excels in stopping the run, and is a high motor guy who never gives up on the play.
He didn't start in Carolina but managed to be quite productive during his time on the field, recording 75 tackles in 2011.
The former Penn State Nittany Lion will most likely start at middle linebacker this season beside his former college teammate Sean Lee. Head coach Jason Garrett has been impressed by Connor and had this to say about him, via the Dallas Morning News.
"We're excited to have Dan Connor in, a Penn State guy, drafted by Carolina. He’s the right kind of guy, a very productive player for them, a very productive player in college," Garrett said. "We've had a good visit with him so far and we'll get the chance to visit with him more today and just see where we are and where he is and continue along with this process."
However, the best under-the-radar signing could end up being fullback Lawrence Vickers.
The Cowboys are one of the few remaining teams in the NFL that consistently use a fullback, making it imperative for Dallas to have an effective one.
This is exactly what they got in Vickers.
Vickers is an aggressive and emotional player that loves to hit the holes in front of his running back and bang. He is a very effective run blocker and has the soft hands that make him a potential threat in the passing game. His former coach in Houston, Garry Kubiak had this to say about him, via DallasCowboys.com.
He just loves to hit and loves contact, and he'll play special teams for you very well too. He plays with a lot of emotion—I really liked that. I think he brought a lot of emotion to our offensive football team—and to our halfback too.
The Cowboys should get plenty of use out of him as he opens up holes for the backs out of the I formation.
Jerry Has Turned the Secondary from a Weakness into a Strength This Offseason
Last season the Cowboys secondary was beat more often than eggs would be in a bakery. The defense was ranked 23rd in the league at defending the pass, and it gave up 243 yards a game.
But even those numbers don't tell the whole story.
Too often when the Cowboys desperately needed a stop, a corner would get beat or a safety would blow a coverage assignment. It happened multiple times throughout the season and ultimately cost the team a playoff berth.
Heading into the offseason improving the secondary was the team’s top priority, and Jones wasted no time in doing so.
First, he signed one of the top cornerbacks on the market, Brandon Carr to a five-year deal to replace Terence Newman as Dallas' top corner.
Carr will be an impact player immediately for Dallas. He is excellent in man coverage and has the much needed ability in Rob Ryan's defense to press and hold receivers at the line, so Ryan’s aggressive blitzes have time to get to the QB.
Then in a quieter move he went out and secured former Jets safety Brodney Pool with a one-year deal.
Pool will provide stability in the Cowboys secondary. He is a solid cover player with soft hands and a high football IQ with his only real downside being he doesn't make a lot of big plays. Still, he will be a huge improvement over Abram Elam in coverage.
Adding to Pool's value is his familiarity with Ryan's defense, as he played for him a few years in Cleveland.
Jones finished his reconstruction of the secondary on draft day with his selection of Claiborne in the first round.
Claiborne will join a deep cornerback stable, which now includes former Pro Bowler Mike Jenkins, a standout slot corner in Orlando Scandrick and the aforementioned Carr. This group of corners is now one of the deepest and most talented in football.
Opposing quarterbacks will have a much more difficult time this season if they wish to throw on the Cowboys.
The Rob Ryan Jones Expected in 2011 Will Finally Show Up This Season
Rob Ryan was brought in to be defensive coordinator last season for two reasons.
One, and most importantly, to turn around a talented but under-performing defense and secondly, to bring in a high level of energy to offset Garrett's stoic demeanor.
The Cowboys saw plenty of the second part out of Ryan last season. The only person who seemed to eclipse him in sound bites was his larger-than-life twin brother, Rex.
However, the fixing the defense part didn't work out quite as well as Jones hoped it would.
The defense faltered late in the season and the players never looked fully adjusted to Ryan's complicated scheme.
However, Ryan is now being handed a defense that better fits his aggressive style, mostly because he now has a secondary that actually allows him to effectively blitz.
Plus, the players will have had a second offseason under Ryan to learn and adjust to his system. This will cut down on the confusion on that side of the ball, which was evident at times during last season.
Ryan carries himself with a lot of swagger. However, his performance in calling plays on the field hasn't always lived up to that.
But this is the year he actually backs up his big talk, and the Cowboys will finish the season with as a top 10 defense.
Dez Bryant Will Become the Star Jones Expected When He Selected Him
When Jones moved up to take Dez Bryant in 2010, it signaled that expectations were high for the talented receiver from Oklahoma State.
But when Jones assigned him the storied No. 88 jersey heading into his rookie season, expectations were clear.
Jones envisioned Bryant as the next Cowboys great on the outside.
In his first two seasons, Bryant was good but certainly not spectacular. He performed very well in the first half of games, but seemingly disappeared during the second half.
He also had maturity issues and struggled with a myriad of minor injuries, to the point that Jones called out his conditioning this offseason.
It seems that Bryant has heard him loud and clear, though. He has spent the entire offseason getting into the best shape of his young career and has his body fat all the way down to 3.1 percent.
Heading into his third season, all indications point to Bryant being a more focused and mature player. He is also a better route runner and now has an established rapport with Romo.
All of these improvements should equal a breakout season for Bryant in 2012, and Jones should finally see Bryant transform into the player he envisioned when he moved up to draft him.
The Cowboys Will Win the Divison and Make a Playoff Run
No matter how shrewd Jones' moves were this offseason, the only real way to earn executive of the year is for your team to win.
The Cowboys are poised to do just that this season.
Jones has shored up almost every area of weakness on the roster heading into the season.
If this team can find a way to pull out the close ones, it will find only success during 2012.
Romo and the rest of the Dallas roster have experienced failure after failure the last five or so years, but this is the most complete roster that the Cowboys have fielded since their dynasty days.
The division is very difficult with the "Dream Team" the Philadelphia Eagles, the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants and the RG3-led Washington Redskins. But, the Cowboys have the secondary strength and offensive firepower to be successful against these teams.
There are certainly a lot of "ifs" for Dallas in 2012, but IF the Cowboys can put it all together—they will win the NFC East.
Who knows? Romo and company could even make a Super Bowl Run.
I can see Jerry grinning from here.