David Garrard or Shaun Hill have the time of day to throw the ball, man, I'm guessing even Mel Renfro and Herb Adderley and Everson Walls would have struggled in coverage this past season.
And the reason grass had time to grow under the feet of opposing quarterbacks, even indoors mind you? Little to no consistent pressure. Yeah, yeah, DeMarcus Ware led the NFL with 15.5 sacks. But after that, the next guy (Anthony Spencer) had five, and the 36 the Cowboys registered were six fewer than the previous season, a whopping 23 fewer than in 2008, and 10 fewer than in 2007. In fact, the 36 sacks ranked the Cowboys in a three-way tie for 14th most in the NFL.
Plus, it wasn't just the sacks. When it came to quarterback pressures, Ware led with 36. Next highest? Spencer with 14 and Jay Ratliff with 12. Seriously. The previous year, and maybe they began counting what exactly is a pressure differently this past season, but all I know is the official defensive stats from 2009 say the Cowboys had five guys with at least 27 pressures, totaling 233. Last year? Try 86. I mean, that's what it says.
To me, lack of pressure should not fall merely on the shoulders of the outside linebackers, Ware and Spencer. They need help inside, and especially when the Cowboys are in their base 3-4 defense. And that help must come from more than Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff. Those defensives ends must be able to transition from run-stuffers to pass-rushers on first and second downs, and the Cowboys were woefully lacking. The defensive ends, and remember Marcus Spears missed the final eight games, totaled just three sacks (Spears, Igor Olshansky, Stephen Bowen , Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore). Three now, and remember at least one of those guys on every nickel snap had to be in there next to Ratliff rushing from a defensive tackle spot in the four-down alignment.
The Cowboys can't make it that easy on offensive coordinators. Double Ware, chip on Spencer or send the tight end to his side to put him in coverage, double Ratliff and take your chances with all of the rest.
And I know, about this time last year the Cowboys basically told Spears they did not monetarily value the defensive end position, which was also one of the reasons they did not even remotely try to pay free-agent Chris Canty enough to keep him from signing with the Giants, who actually overpaid him anyway. But maybe they need to value that position, at least one of them. That way if you get you a good one, that takes offensive attention off not only the outside two, but also Ratliff inside. Create a fair fight for your moneymakers.
Plus, don't you forget for a minute three of the top four defensive ends are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents if the same free agency rules apply once a Collective Bargaining Agreement is structured - Spears, Bowen and Hatcher. Like, what if teams decide to offer more than the Cowboys once free agency begins? Who you got to play defensive end, a fading Olshansky, who isn't much of a pass-rusher anyway, and last year's rookie Lissemore, but a seventh-round pick out of William & Mary?
Maybe these starting two spots shouldn't be considered grunt-workers. Hey, Bruce Smith and Richard Seymour aren't synonymous with grunt. What's wrong with having an Aaron Smith or Ty Warren or Luis Castillo among your front three? Give new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who seemingly will run a front needing much more versatile down linemen, some stuff.
Meaning, what's so wrong with drafting a Nick Fairley, Cam Jordan or J.J. Watt come Thursday night? Too bad Marcell Dareus is too good to be there or Da'Quan Bowers seems to have a prohibitive knee condition for a guy to be taken that high in the first round.
And for what it's worth, in this week's correspondents' mock draft for Pro Football Weekly, where someone covering each of the 32 teams made the picks in order, and thanks to two wide receivers (A.J. Green and Julio Jones) going in the top eight and three quarterbacks (Tennessee surprisingly taking Jake Locker at No. 8 just ahead of the Cowboys to go with Cam Newton to Carolina and Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco) - and with Dareus going to Denver, Von Miller to Buffalo and Peterson to Arizona - Fairley fell right into my lap, with Watt going 18 to San Diego and Jordon 20