IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.
In it we discuss:
Where the offense needs to improve the most.
Where the Cowboys are headed as an organization.
Where Dan Bailey ranks among kickers.
Where Terrance Mitchell fits.
Away we go:
@toddarcher: To me this is the biggest area in which the Cowboys need to improve. They converted just 35 percent of their third-down opportunities. The Cowboys scored a lot of points (27.4 a game) but they couldn't stay on the field. That was surprising, although I realize the more you score, the less plays you run. But that was the lowest percentage by far since the Cowboys adopted Jason Garrett's offense. The lowest before last season was 39.4 percent in 2011. In 2012, they converted 43.9 percent of the time, which was the highest in Garrett's era. Last season's offseason focus was improving in the red zone, and the Cowboys did that. This season the improvement has to come on third down. That is the money down for offense and defense. That is where there could have been some disconnect in Bill Callahan not knowing the offense as well. Scott Linehan won't have that issue this year. It must be better in 2014 for a variety of reasons, but mostly to keep the defense off the field as much as possible.
@toddarcher: Well, I know I'm a lot more optimistic than my guys at ESPN Insider, who had the Cowboys at No. 28 in their future rankings. A lot of it is the offensive line with Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. A lot of it is Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray, too. If people really want to look at the Cowboys, then they will notice how they are operating differently. I realize they were under cap restrictions to a degree this offseason, but I'm taking Stephen Jones at his word that the day of doing huge free-agent deals for players they don't know will largely be over. Will there be exceptions? Sure, but the Cowboys have realized you just don't get the right return on those investments. I think the drafting has been better lately after Wade Phillips' tenure. A lot of their success, however, will come down to Romo. He has a better line to help him. He has a better play-caller, in my view, this year, in Linehan. He has guys like Witten, Murray, Bryant and Terrance Williams, too. What he doesn't have is much of a defense. That is the hole here. They need a lot of guys to have career years to be a solid defense. In general, I think the arrow is pointing up to a degree. This isn't the 2007 Cowboys by any stretch, but these aren't the 2000-02 Cowboys either.
Not the most important position, but where would you rank Dan Bailey in the leagues best kickers? #cowboysmail— Nolan (@Nolan_Fowler22) July 16, 2014
@toddarcher: Don't sell the question short. It's an important one, especially with how close every game in the NFL seems to be. Well, at least the ones the Cowboys play. The Cowboys know how important Bailey is, which is why he was signed to a seven-year extension in the offseason. I'm not going to pretend to know the ins and outs of every kicker in the NFL, but I would put Bailey in the top five. He is clutch at the end of games. He is clutch in the middle of games. His kickoffs have improved a lot.
@toddarcher: If I had to guess, I would say some teams didn't like Mitchell's speed. He was in the 4.6s at the scouting combine. He was better at his pro day. The Cowboys had him ranked higher than the seventh round, so they were glad to get him. He was unable to do much in the offseason because rules prevented him from being around until Oregon got out of school, but he quickly made an impression. I'd warn you to not get too carried away on what happened in June. It was encouraging, but to pencil him in as anything more than the fourth cornerback (and I think he's battling for the fifth right now) would be a mistake. He will take some bumps, but the Cowboys like his confidence, and that is what a cornerback needs a lot of.