said from Mobile this week after watching one of the practices. "And it just shows me that when you have quarterbacks like Tom Brady, or you have it like (Eli) Manning, if you don't have pressure on them, you're toast.
"But by the same token, sometimes to get it you got to make sure everybody is on the same page just to be able to make a play when the ball comes out."
Now, the Cowboys finished with 42 sacks this season, leaving them in a three-way tie for the seventh most in the NFL, eight behind the league-leading 50 posted by Minnesota and Philadelphia. But when looking at the big picture, the Cowboys' total was but average, considering there were 10 teams finishing with between 39 and 42 sacks.
OK, 42 was an improvement over the 2010 season's 35, and matching their 2009 total. Great. But gosh, remember 2008 when they had 59 sacks following a 46-sack 2007 season in Wade Phillips' first two years as head coach?
Still, not good enough, especially when you consider one guy, DeMarcus Ware, almost had as many sacks as the rest of the entire team. Yep, Ware had 19.5 and all the other Cowboys' defenders totaled 22.5, and only two of them had as many as four, Anthony Spencer with a half-dozen and Jason Hatcher with 4.5.
That's a one-man band.
So again, while the Cowboys aren't even close to knowing what they'd love to do at No. 14, also factoring in they will be at the mercy of what the 13 teams ahead of them do, if it were me, and all things were equal, man, I'd grab me a guy who can pressure the quarterback – either an outside linebacker in a 3-4 or a 3-4 defensive end, since the 49ers proved a quality pass-rushing 3-4 defensive end can do damage rushing inside. See Justin Smith.
So maybe that is why three guys this past week at the Senior Bowl practices caught my eye: Alabama's Courtney Upshaw, South Carolina's Melvin Ingram and North Carolina's Quinton Coples. Upshaw and Ingram translate to either 4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers. Coples is a defensive end, either on the strong side of a 4-3 or 3-4.
Now I certainly haven't watched these guys play entire games, although I did see Upshaw in person at the BCS Championship game, the one in which he was selected as the defensive MVP. But for the most part this past week, these guys couldn't be blocked. Powerful, and even though Upshaw and Ingram were a shade under 6-2, an inch or two shorter than ideal, they did a nice job of setting the edge against the run, weighting 273 and 276 respectively.
But again, it's only Jan. 27, it's early. There still is a lot of ciphering to do: A lot more tests, a lot more interviews, a lot more evaluations to go. Not to mention what takes place in free agency potentially having a huge effect on draft decisions.
Still, me, whether I'm asked in Lindale, Texas, Shreveport, La., Lucedale, Miss., or Mobile, Ala., my answer will be: *Someone who can team with Ware to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Someone who can help keep the likes of Eli Manning from throwing for 746 yards in two games, Mark Sanchez from throwing for 355 yards (second highest of the season), Matt Moore going for a season-high 288 yards, Rex Grossman from putting up 292 yards (third most this season) or Michael Vick compiling a season-high 129.9 quarterback rating. *
*Just no more four-touchdown-pass performances from three different quarterbacks in a season. *
Otherwise, you definitely are *toast. Burnt toast to be exact. *