Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Jones will have to answer questions about a lackluster draft class in 2013.
A lot has been made about the Dallas Cowboys' inability to get to the postseason, but it's still important to note that they have gone down to the last game in each of the last two years with a shot at winning the NFC East.
This team isn't too far off.
With that in mind, a lackluster draft class has the vultures in the national media circling. Reaching for Travis Frederick, who I had a third-round grade on, in the first round bordered on heresy. Grabbing a tight end in the second round with so many other needs made absolutely no sense. And forgetting to add more beef along the offensive line was questionable at best.
Say what you want about the recently extended Tony Romo, but he is the best part about an under-performing Cowboys roster. Give him protection and talent on offense, and he'll be just fine.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Dallas ranked 25th in the NFL in pass protection this past season. Both left tackle Tyron Smith and right tackle Doug Free ranked among the worst at their positions in pass protection as well. That's just not going to get it done.
Defensively, Dallas is moving to a new scheme under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. He will implement more of a hybrid 4-3 scheme than the base 3-4 that we saw from Rob Ryan over the past couple seasons.
The talent is there. DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer will play with their hands down at the line, while Bruce Carter and newly signed Justin Durant will take on outside linebacker roles with Sean Lee returning to health inside.
Some expected the Cowboys pass defense to improve a great deal in 2012 after they signed Brandon Carr and drafted Morris Claiborne. Due to lackluster safety play, that just didn't happen.
Without any money to spend on outside free agents, this deficiency was pretty much ignored in the offseason. While third-round pick J.J. Wilcox possesses tremendous upside, he isn't a short-term fix after playing just one season on defense at Georgia Southern.
As of right now, Dallas will be fielding a starting safety tandem of Barry Church and Matt Johnson. That is pedestrian at best.
Much like Chicago, Dallas is a borderline playoff team. It will need solid performances in pass protection, a healthy DeMarco Murray and improved safety play to earn a rare postseason spot.
Can Jerry Jones and Co. bank on that?