When Cowboys officials do their evaluations of the 2013 roster, fixing the defensive line is a must. There were 18 different defensive linemen on the stat sheets in 2013, partially because of injuries to several key players and the rotation used by line coach Rod Marinelli.
Ware's declining play, a career-low six sacks, and Hatcher becoming a free agent could force the team to find younger talent for the unit. George Selvie was a solid pickup in training camp and he will return to compete for a starting job at defensive end. Nick Hayden, signed in the spring, morphed into a starting role when Jay Ratliff's health didn't improve enough to allow him to play.
But the Cowboys can't move forward with men like Corvey Irvin, Jarius Wynn or Frank Kearse as players along the line in 2014. Drafting a defensive line that fits the 4-3 scheme of Monte Kiffin, if he's still here, should be a priority in the first two days of the draft.
Yes, I understand you draft the best player available. However, when you have a need such as this, getting a defensive lineman is vital.
The Cowboys have to do something with the secondary. Orlando Scandrick was the Cowboys' best corner and he took the starting gig away from Morris Claiborne, who struggled with his health and overall play. Brandon Carr started off the 2013 season well, but declined as things progressed. He just wasn't the same player in man coverage.
With two of your top three corners struggling, either a change in technique or change in personnel is the answer.
The linebacker position is fine with Sean Lee up the middle, the weakside linebacker, Bruce Carter, was inconsistent and the strongside linebacker, Justin Durant, didn't finish the season due to a hamstring injury. Durant might not return and his replacement is quite possibly on the roster in Kyle Wilber or DeVonte Holloman.
Both players had flashes during the season which gives the Cowboys hope at the position. Carter is a different story. He was projected as a first-round pick in 2011 and fell into the second round due to his recovery from knee surgery. Carter has the skill-set the Cowboys like, yet his inconsistency is maddening.
He enters the final year of his rookie contract looking to rebound.
The Cowboys don't have many easy decisions when it comes to this defensive unit, which needs a major overhaul.
It could start with replacing Kiffin, but owner Jerry Jones could give him another year to fix the entire thing. It was difficult on Marinelli to juggle the defensive line in 2013 and his rotations were questionable -- taking Ware and Hatcher off the field at the same time didn't seem right. Marinelli is a well-respected coach in the league and if left on the open market, he could get a job as a defensive coordinator within seconds.
So maybe as part of the fixing of the defense, Marinelli would take over for Kiffin.
Whatever the Cowboys do this offseason, the defense needs major changes.