WEST LAWN, PA
Which is more of a concern in your mind: The lack of pressure from the defensive line or the inconsistent play of the defensive backs? It seems to me that in this era, you almost have to expect a team to be able to move the ball through the air; the teams that are successful in pass defense generate pressure with their front. So, which is a bigger need?
Rowan: Good question, and I put it more on getting pressure. As poor as the numbers are and as bad as the secondary looked as a whole at times, we saw that when pressure was consistent this defense could be productive. When the pressure from the line ceased, teams had a field day through the air. I think the bigger need is on the line, and if they can find a consistent pass rush, that secondary would look a lot different.
David: I think it's a great point, Alex. With the way the rules are designed, you almost have to assume teams are going to get passing yards. How can they not, when you aren't allowed to get physical with receivers or hit them over the middle of the field? Perhaps the one team that can, Seattle, just happens to have Pro Bowl-caliber players at all four positions in the secondary. As poorly as the Cowboys' secondary played at times in 2013, it also showed flashes of competence in three or four games. If you add an effective pass rush to the equation, I think the the defensive backs stand to improve significantly.
After 12 games, everyone was saying DeMarco Murray would not return next year. After the way he finished the last four games, did he earn another contract?
Rowan: Luckily for the Cowboys, that's a decision they won't have to make until after next season. We'll have a better grasp at that point at their cap situation. Murray was fantastic the last month or so of the 2013 season and gave the Cowboys everything they could have hoped for. He's still got to stay on the field more, but he was ready to go when it mattered most at the end of the year to put together his first 1,000-yard season. That said, he'd need an even more miraculous year to warrant another long-term contract. Running backs' shelf lives just typically aren't worth the second contract.
David: Nobody was higher on Murray's last four or five games than I was – he was a revelation after 12 weeks' worth of inconsistency. I wouldn't be in a rush to sign him to a new deal any time soon, though. He's got one more year on his rookie contract. He still hasn't completely proven his durability, as he missed two games in 2013, and he has missed at least two games in every season of his career. And as I just said in the above question, the NFL has become a passing league. I'm not convinced the Cowboys should be committing long-term to any running back.