Commentary

Talent contest has familiar ring to it

Position comparisons show Packers dominate star-studded Cowboys as they did NFL

Updated: February 8, 2011, 4:17 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

The general manager doesn't consider talent to be the problem for the Dallas Cowboys, whose 6-10 season can be considered the most disappointing campaign in franchise history.

That isn't just Jerry Jones' delusional line of thinking. Jones recalls twice this season when the head coaches of teams that beat the Cowboys raved about the talent on the Dallas roster during brief postgame chats on the field.

"It's pretty constant around the league," said Troy Aikman, the Fox broadcaster and Hall of Fame former Cowboys quarterback. "Football people believe that the Cowboys are one of -- if not the -- most talented teams in the league."

Maybe the most talented team in the league? Let's compare the Cowboys to the Green Bay Packers, who just celebrated a Super Bowl championship in Jerry's $1.2 billion football palace.

We'll go position group by position group, judging the Cowboys' healthy roster against the injury-depleted starting lineup the Packers used in their Super Bowl XLV win over the Steelers. This is done in consultation with ESPN Dallas' Bryan Broaddus, who worked in the personnel departments of the Packers and Cowboys during his career as an NFL scout. (Broaddus won a Super Bowl ring during his tenure in Green Bay and lost his hair during his tenure in Dallas.)

The conclusion? Well, it isn't quite as lopsided as the Cowboys' loss at Lambeau Field in Wade Phillips' finale, but it's close.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo, Aaron Rodgers
AP Photo/J. Pat CarterThe Cowboys' Tony Romo (left) is a top 10 QB. But for the moment, he's no Aaron Rodgers.
QUARTERBACKS: Jones declared last week that Tony Romo is one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league. That's a realistic view. Several Packers declared in the wake of their Super Bowl win that Aaron Rodgers is the NFL's best quarterback right now. That might also be a realistic view. It seems that everything Romo does well, such as throw with accuracy and buy time with his feet, Rodgers does better. Edge: Packers

RUNNING BACKS: The Packers, who lost Ryan Grant to an ankle injury early in the season, proved you don't have to have a dominant rushing attack to win a championship. Sixth-round rookie James Starks was Green Bay's lead back during its playoff run. He'd probably be the third back in Dallas, and that's assuming that Marion Barber will be released in a cost-cutting move this summer. Felix Jones and Tashard Choice are at least an adequate tandem. The Cowboys still hope Jones, who has had flashes of brilliance, can be a star. Edge: Cowboys

WIDE RECEIVERS: "We've got the best receiver group in the National Football League," Green Bay's Donald Driver said. "We'll challenge anyone on that." The Cowboys might be able to counter by claiming the most talented tandem. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, a pair of big, fast playmakers, might be the most talented tandem in the league. But Greg Jennings and Driver have much more impressive track records of productivity. And the Packers' depth is astounding, as evidenced by No. 4 receiver Jordy Nelson's nine-catch, 140-yard, one-touchdown Super Bowl performance. Edge: Packers

TIGHT ENDS: Jason Witten is building a pretty strong case for Canton. Green Bay rookie Andrew Quarless did a solid job of filling in after Jermichael Finley suffered a season-ending injury. Finley might be able to make this a decent debate one day, but it's a mismatch with Quarless, much like Witten against most linebackers and safeties who try to cover him. Edge: Cowboys

[+] EnlargeJason Witten
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImageThe Cowboys and Jason Witten retain an advantange at tight end, where the Packers are banged up.
OFFENSIVE LINE: At this point in their careers, young Cowboys left tackle Doug Free is a better left tackle than his Packers counterpart, 11-year veteran Chad Clifton. It's probably a push at left guard and center, although Cowboys center Andre Gurode keeps getting Pro Bowl berths based on reputation. The Cowboys need to replace the right side of their line, while the Packers have one of the best guards in the game (Josh Sitton) and a first-round rookie right tackle with a very bright future, Bryan Bulaga. Edge: Packers

DEFENSIVE LINE: Jay Ratliff is a three-time Pro Bowler, but Green Bay's B.J. Raji might be the best 3-4 nose tackle in the NFL. Raji has prototypical bulk (6-2, 337) and is a disruptive presence (6.5 sacks this season). Green Bay's Cullen Jenkins, a dominant run-stopper who had seven sacks this season, is by far the best defensive end on these two teams. Ryan Pickett, the Packers' other defensive end, is a lot like Dallas' Igor Olshansky -- just a guy. Edge: Packers

LINEBACKERS: Dallas' DeMarcus Ware and Green Bay's Clay Matthews, a pair of outside linebackers who are on the short list of the league's most dominant defensive players, cancel each other out. Anthony Spencer is better than the Packers' tandem of Erik Walden and Frank Zombo, although Spencer was a major disappointment in 2010. The Packers have a significant edge at both inside linebacker positions. Green Bay's Desmond Bishop didn't start until Nick Barnett was injured, but Bishop is a physical player who also excels in coverage and earned a four-year, $19 million contract extension. The Cowboys hope Sean Lee can stay healthy and emerge as that type of player. Edge: Packers

[+] EnlargeNick Collins
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesNick Collins alone gives the Packers the edge at safety over the Cowboys' struggling group.
CORNERBACKS: The Cowboys' cornerbacks had a miserable 2010 season. The Packers' cornerbacks had a magnificent 2010 season. Dallas' Terence Newman is a 30-something former Pro Bowler who showed significant signs of decline. Green Bay's Charles Woodson is a 30-something Pro Bowler who remains one of the most complete corners in the game. Dallas' Mike Jenkins and Green Bay's Tramon Williams are both terrifically talented young corners, but Jenkins was awful while Williams was awesome this season. Edge: Packers

SAFETIES: Dallas desperately needs to upgrade here. The Cowboys made a major misevaluation by handing Alan Ball a starting job, and there is little reason to be confident in Gerald Sensabaugh despite his late-season interception flurry. Green Bay's Charlie Peprah was a serviceable starter after second-round rookie Morgan Burnett's season-ending injury. The Packers' Nick Collins, a strong tackler with 17 picks in the past three seasons, is an elite strong safety. Edge: Packers

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

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