IRVING, Texas – It’s a short week with the Washington Redskins coming to Cowboys Stadium on Thursday at 3:15 p.m., but there is always time for Five Wonders:
** It’s never too early to talk about the draft, right? Well, it is for me, since we don’t know the players who will be available just yet. The influx of third-year sophomores and juniors changes everything when it comes to the draft. But let’s stick with positions. Offensive line has to be at the top, right? I don’t see how it couldn’t. What about cornerback with the impending departure of Mike Jenkins and the importance of that position? That would seem to be a priority pick. What if the Cowboys don’t keep Anthony Spencer? That moves up outside linebacker in the mix. They could use a wide receiver as well. How about a tight end? And you can never have enough defensive linemen. So here’s my point: I wonder if the drafting of the quarterback of the future has to wait a year? I’m not so sure it should because if you wait for the stars to align, then you’re in trouble, but this is a team that has a ton of needs going forward. Can they afford to take a quarterback early? And when I say early I mean in the top three rounds.
** Roster composition is something a general manager has to always keep in mind. They have to play the what-if game more than anybody else. I wonder if the Cowboys are paying a price for not playing the what-if game at offensive tackle. With Tyron Smith doubtful to start Thursday against Washington, the Cowboys will have Jermey Parnell make the first start of his career. Who’s the swing tackle? Well, the guess is that it will be Smith in a break-in-case-of-emergency situation only. The Cowboys kept only three tackles on the 53-man roster in Smith, Parnell and Doug Free. In a former life Derrick Dockery played some tackle, but he’s not that guy anymore. David Arkin was a tackle in college, but he’s not that guy anymore. I wonder if the Cowboys made a mistake in not keeping a developmental guy on the practice squad just for this kind of thing. Jeff Adams was among the team’s final cuts and by no means was he ready to play in an NFL game in September. But he did have to play a ton in the preseason at San Diego because of injuries and wasn’t bad until conditioning caught up with him. Having a guy like Adams or someone of his ilk, would have been a help on a week like this if Smith can’t dress for the game.
** Jason Witten is on pace for 117 catches this season, which would be a single-season record for a tight end in NFL history. Tony Gonzalez holds the mark with 102 catches. But Witten is averaging only 8.7 yards per catch, which would be a career low. He’s had only two games in which he has averaged at least 10 yards a catch this season. He is on pace for 1,018 yards. I wonder how much he is being affected by the offensive line woes. With Tony Romo having to get the ball out of his hands so quickly, Witten is running not only shorter routes but routes that do not lend themselves to a lot of run after the catch. Some might claim he is just slowing down and was never that good after the catch. I’m not buying that. His longest catch of the year was a 35-yarder at Baltimore in which he ran away from Ed Reed. He has the legs, but Romo just can’t trust the offensive line to hold up long enough for Witten to work the seams.
** I wonder if the Cowboys have any regrets on not signing veteran Montrae Holland in training camp. Of the three players they worked out in Oxnard, Calif., in August, Holland was the best. They settled for Derrick Dockery and Daniel Loper with Holland’s agent looking for incentive money should Holland become a starter. The Cowboys did not want to go there and passed. It’s hard to say Holland would have been an answer for this team since he has not signed with another team, but he did an adequate job in 2011. Dockery struggled against Cleveland. He does not bend as well as he used to and didn’t display much power. Would the Cowboys have been better off with Holland? Perhaps.
** Caleb McSurdy was the first to go because of a torn Achilles. Within two days of each other Danny Coale (anterior cruciate ligament) and Matt Johnson (hamstring) were next to go. The Cowboys’ 2012 draft class has not produced much beyond first rounder Morris Claiborne. Defensive end Tyrone Crawford, the third rounder, will have an opportunity in the final six weeks to show what he can do. Tight end James Hanna has gotten more offensive snaps lately but just no passes in his direction. Kyle Wilber has seen only spot duty on defense. Grading drafts immediately after players are picked in April is foolish and there are people who say you should wait a few years before deciding if a class was good or bad. I wonder if we’ll need to wait that long on this class. Johnson will be the key. The way the Cowboys waited and waited and waited for him to get healthy tells you they believe he has a bright future. They simply couldn’t hold the roster spot for him any longer. Now he gets time to get healthy and start all over again in 2013.