While Dallas Cowboys fans are rejoicing about the agreement with defensive tackle Henry Melton on Tuesday night, and the deal is a positive for the team in terms of upgrading the defensive line, there are other issues to worry about.
Melton is coming off ACL surgery and team officials say he should be ready for training camp. The rest of the defensive roster is another story.
The Cowboys also allowed 388 first downs, most in the NFL.
The Cowboys' front has to become stronger at the point of attack, and adding someone like Melton helps, but getting another 20-something defensive lineman in the first-round, Aaron Donald or Timmy Jernigan, improves the line.
Secondary play was inconsistent last season.
Cornerback Brandon Carr was solid at the start of the 2013 season, but tailed off to an inconsistent state. Orlando Scandrick emerged as a full-time starter at the other cornerback spot, even taking over certain receivers at times when asked.
Morris Claiborne battled through injuries last season and needs to remain on the field for a full 16 games season so the Cowboys can really see what they have in this former first-round pick.
As a unit, the Cowboys gave up 231 passing first downs, 30th in the NFL. Some of these first downs were not a result of the scheme, because while the Tampa 2 has principles of zone coverage, Monte Kiffin allowed his cornerbacks to play man-to-man. Kiffin also placed strong safety Barry Church near the line of scrimmage leaving his free safeties (a mixture of Will Allen, J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath) alone.
After Allen was released, Wilcox provided a physical presence on the back end, but he never regained his starting job after he was hurt, giving Heath an opportunity to start. It was clear Heath understood the scheme, but he struggled to make plays on the ball and just didn’t perform well on a consistent basis.
Sean Lee leads the linebackers, but he missed what ended up being the biggest game of the season, Week 17 against Philadelphia, because of ligament damage in his neck. With Ware gone, Lee has become the face of the defense at middle linebacker and needs to remain on the field, injury-free, at a difficult position.
Drafting another linebacker wouldn’t surprise anyone outside of Valley Ranch, especially if that person can help Lee.
So yes, Melton’s move to Dallas should be viewed as a positive, but there are more things to fix on the 2014 Cowboys’ defense.