IRVING, Texas – During the NFL combine in February, Jerry Jones vowed that the Cowboys would undergo major changes this offseason.
The dust has pretty much settled, although Jones said it’s still possible for the Cowboys to dip their toes in the free agency market, and the Cowboys don’t look dramatically different than they did a year ago.
High-priced veterans Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin got pink slips, but it appears likely that those will be the only two starters replaced. Nevertheless, Jerry thinks the Cowboys have a nice balance of continuity and competition.
“I like where the continuity is, and I like where the lack of it is coming from with these first- and second-year players,” he said. “Continuity is to have everybody back doing exactly the same thing. We’re not doing that. We’re looking at some competition that’s coming into its own.”
He specifically mentioned linebacker Jason Williams and tight end Martellus Bennett. It’s not like they’ll push Keith Brooking and Jason Witten to the bench, but Jerry is confident that both physically gifted young players are prepared to flourish in larger roles than they had last season.
Receiver Dez Bryant and linebacker Sean Lee, the team’s top two picks, are expected to make immediate impacts as non-starters. The Cowboys hope that some of their “redshirt” rookies – 2009 picks who missed all or most of last season due to injuries – will become contributors. They’re particularly optimistic about outside linebacker Brandon Williams, whom Wade Phillips said displayed the burst Monday that he had before tearing his ACL in a preseason game.
“All of this is, to me, the right mix to make something happen positive with this team,” Jerry said. “This is not in any way the same team that we had last year.”
Sorry, Jerry, but I can’t agree with that statement, and that’s not a negative. There’s nothing wrong with having similarities to a team that won its division and a playoff game last season.
The vast majority of the Cowboys’ core and the coaching staff were kept intact. If Jerry and Co. are right about the young players, a good team will be better.