COMMENTARY | The Dallas Cowboys have plenty of talent but also deficiencies in areas that need an upgrade. Due to salary cap issues the Dallas Cowboys are limited as to how they can address these areas. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has rewarded average players with big money contracts. Players like Doug Free and Anthony Spencer are grossly overpaid compared to their production on the football field. These contracts tie up money that can otherwise be utilized in helping improve this team's performance.
If the Dallas Cowboys want to avoid another 8-8 season there are five areas they need to improve:
The Offensive Line
Every year it seems that something goes real wrong with a group of players at one or two positions that doom the Dallas Cowboys.
Two years ago it was the horrible play at cornerback that kept the Cowboys out of the postseason. In the offseason last year the Dallas Cowboys addressed that weakness giving Brandon Carr a $50MM contract and drafting Morris Claiborne after giving up a second round pick to move up and select the cornerback from LSU.
Problem solved? Yes and no. Last year the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line play was horrible in part because they did not seriously commit to addressing it.
Guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau were late additions to an already porous line. Both bought very little to the table.
Owner Jerry Jones rewarded left tackle Doug Free with a huge contract after one good year. Since then (and a move to right tackle) Free has been awful.
Former right tackle Tyron Smith was moved to left tackle where he had some growing pains but was serviceable.
The Dallas Cowboys need an upgrade at both guard positions, center and right tackle. Drafting center Travis Frederick from the Wisconsin Badgers was certainly the right pick but it still leaves the right tackle and both guard positions to be addressed.
The Running Game
DeMarco Murray, when healthy, is a star. But can he stay healthy?
The Dallas Cowboys haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher in five years. Last year Felix Jones came into camp overweight and failed the conditioning test. An NFL running back failed the condition test -- in a contract year!
That alone (including his pedestrian performance the last three years) didn't warrant a new contract.
Drafting Oklahoma State running Back Joseph Randle will certainly help and should be an upgrade to a disappointing Felix Jones.
Stopping the Read-Run Option
I can't believe I even have to address the fact that NFL teams can't defend a play that is ran all of the time in college football.
This particular play has made NFL defenses (the Dallas Cowboys defense in particular) look dumb and utterly confused. The Dallas Cowboys weren't prepared for it when they played The Seattle Seahawks early last season or the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day or the Washington Redskins week 17 for the division…see what I'm getting at here?
The Dallas Cowboys play the Washington Redskins twice each year and you can bet they'll be other NFL teams running the read-run option in 2013.
There's no excuse why the Dallas Cowboy defense or any other NFL defense not to be prepared for this play
Emergence of a Third Wide Receiver
We've been asking this question for the last two years. We were told that the third wide receiver would emerge from the current roster. We're still waiting.
Kevin Ogletree doesn't know the playbook as well as he should. He pulls up early and many times doesn't finish off routes properly.
Cole Beasley wasn't on the field that much to make an impact.
Dwayne Harris started to emerge as a dependable wide receiver just as the year ended and should be given every opportunity to be the third wide receiver in camp.
The addition of Baylor Bear's Terrance Williams, who many so called experts consider one of the top wide receivers in this year's draft, will be given the same opportunity as Dwayne Harris. Hopefully 2013 will be the year a third wide receiver finally emerges.
The Dallas Cowboys brass and those of us who watch him week in and week out, know that Tony Romo will flourish with a solid team and good players around him.
But he needs support.
He cannot, week after week put the team on his shoulders and win on a consistently basis.
Last year his offensive line was horrible. His receivers many times ran the wrong route. The running game was subpar. Tony Romo put too much pressure on himself to win. When he does that, he is prone to mistakes.
Surround him with the pieces he needs to succeed and he can win a championship
If the Dallas Cowboys address the areas mentioned above with success they will be a playoff team with potential for a championship. If things stay the way they were in 2012, the 2013 season will be yet another disappointment.
Michael Funk has been a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan and follower for over 30 years and hasn't missed a Sunday of football in 26 years. He is a contributing writer for Footballnation.com providing readers insight NFL and college football.
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