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Mailbag: How Can The Third Down Efficiency Improve?

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MICHAEL FUTOMA
MADISON, WI
While the focus on personnel will certainly be on defense this offseason, any thoughts on how the offense can improve its conversion rate on third down? The conversion rate dropped by about nine percent from 2012 to 2013, even with the added help from Cole Beasley.

David: It's hard to criticize, because he turned in a solid season, but Jason Witten disappeared a bit too often for my liking last year. He was held to fewer than 50 yards receiving in nine of 16 games last year, and he also had seven games with fewer than four catches. Aside from that, we've talked often about the Cowboys' propensity to throw the ball on first and second downs. Third down would likely be more manageable if they used the running game more effectively to put themselves in short yardage situations.

Rowan: Trusting the running game. The Cowboys ran just two times apiece on third-and-2, third-and-3 and third-and-4 all season, despite averaging more than four yards per carry during the season. The answer isn't always to run more, but in this case teams had to be able to predict a pass was coming on third down and anything but a yard. Third down conversions can't happen on incomplete passes.

STEVEN (PAPPY) CRAIG
LAS VEGAS, NV
I have heard you guys talking about getting a speedy wide receiver, but it looked to me that Romo didn't have the arm to reach the ones we have now, throwing short to wide open receivers last year?

David:The downfield passing game was pretty mediocre last year, all things considered. I can't argue with that. And you are right [embedded_ad] that Romo missed on some open throws. There were also plenty of plays – against Kansas City, Denver and Washington spring to mind – when he showed he has the arm strength to make the throws. Ideally, an offseason of rehab and work with his receivers – which he missed last year – will set things right.

Rowan: I don't think a speedy receiver is necessarily the right answer. I think they need another receiver who can potentially be a No. 1 if Dez Bryant were to be out for a game, particularly considering their preference to throw the ball regardless of circumstance. A speedy receiver can open things up underneath, even if the pass doesn't go downfield. But I think a bigger receiver who can eventually become a primary option would help this team more long-term.

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