Jerry Jones plans secondary changes

MOBILE, Ala. -- Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Monday there will be changes in the secondary for the 2012 season.

"We very likely will have new faces over there," Jones said after the first day of practices for the Senior Bowl. "How many, I can't tell you, but we'll have some new faces."

It's uncertain who will be leaving, but Jones did praise cornerbacks Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins.

When asked about veteran corner Terence Newman, who struggled toward the back end of the season, especially in two games against the New York Giants, Jones failed to offer support.

"I really ... other than just an inability to get the job done, and I just don't point to him, I point to several areas of our team," Jones said. "But usually those are combinations of some type of compromise whether it be a dropoff because of injury, because of nicks, which can happen at the end of the season, but everybody has it. That's the NFL."

In the late stages of the season, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan hinted that Newman might have been playing hurt. Newman indicated he was healthy enough to play. He did take himself out of a game in the first meeting against the Giants for backup corner Alan Ball, resulting in a long pass completion.

The Cowboys' pass defense ranked 23rd in passing yards allowed per play and per game.

Of course, the pass rush has something to do with the secondary making plays, and Jones said he was impressed with how the New York Giants got to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

"Very much," he said.

Strong safety Abram Elam and cornerbacks Frank Walker and Ball are among the Cowboys' 13 free agents and could be looking for work elsewhere.

The Cowboys liked what they got from Elam at times, but he seemed to slow down toward the end of the season. Walker, signed in September, played well at the start of the season but like Elam struggled down the stretch. Ball was inconsistent at times, but the Cowboys liked his athletic abilities.

Newman is the wild card here. If the Cowboys release him, it could save the team either $4 million or $6 million depending on whether the team wants to count him as a post-June 1 cut.

As of Monday, the Cowboys had roughly $12.5 million under the salary cap, and it could change based on salary restructures and other cuts.

Free safety Gerald Sensabaugh and Scandrick signed contract extensions last year and are likely to return. Backup safety Barry Church, who is coming off shoulder surgery, is well thought of in the organization.

One thing is certain: Jones wants change from a secondary that compiled 10 of the team's 15 interceptions during the 2011 season.

"Over in the secondary, I do think we'll get better," Jones said.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.