- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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As the NFL draft approaches, "SportsCenter" is putting every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock," and Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.
The Cowboys might have faltered down the stretch and lost to division rival New York -- a team they beat twice in the regular season -- in the playoffs, but Dallas is a team with very few holes. This talented and experienced roster only stands to get better as the Cowboys have two first-round selections that will infuse youth into this established group. While many remember only the postseason exit, Dallas was 13-3, won the brutal NFC East and tortured defenses in many ways with its dynamic offense.
The Cowboys brought in LB Zach Thomas before free agency opened. He should make a very good defense even better. If the 34-year-old Thomas can stay healthy, he should be very productive and will be surrounded with much better talent in Dallas than he had in Miami. The Cowboys also recently locked up WR Patrick Crayton and OT Flozell Adams, while franchising S Ken Hamlin to more or less ensure his return to Dallas. The Cowboys' roster is loaded with talent, and they were wise to keep their own rather than rocking the boat and bringing in a lot of new faces to a team that should compete for the Super Bowl this season. The Cowboys have not signed an unrestricted free agent from another team since free agency opened, which may end up being a very prudent move, considering the current market.
Dallas lost Jacques Reeves to the Texans in free agency. While he had a respectable season in relief and in sub packages, Dallas likely will find a replacement -- and a more athletic one, at that -- in the draft. It also cannot be overlooked that the Dallas front office and coaching staff was raided by former Dallas head coach Bill Parcells. Five former Cowboys assistant coaches are in Miami, including head coach Tony Sparano and assistant head coach Todd Bowles. Miami also got ahold of several of Dallas' role players, most namely Keith Davis, the Cowboys' backup safety and special teams captain, and Jason Ferguson, their starting nose tackle in 2006 who missed most of the 2007 season with a torn biceps. RB Julius Jones is now in Seattle, and though he was a valuable contributor and was considered the Cowboys' starting running back, what he brought to this offense can be replaced with a first-day draft choice.
The biggest is whether the Cowboys can get over the playoff hump and begin having postseason success. They certainly have the personnel to do so. Jason Garrett is waiting in the wings to take over if Wade Phillips cannot elevate Dallas' postseason production, but overall this franchise is in good shape for this time of the year. The Cowboys' losses were minimal, and they should replenish some key positions -- namely cornerback, wide receiver and running back -- with their early picks in what looks to be a deep draft. This is an outstanding offense that can withstand injuries, as evidenced by its success last season when Terrell Owens was hurt. Times are good for the Cowboys, but the pressure will surely begin to mount -- particularly on QB Tony Romo -- if they do not take their performance to the next level this season.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
Scouts Inc. puts the Cowboys on the clock, breaking down their offseason moves and looking at what questions still need answers.