Time for Cowboys to focus improving the roster

At some point the Dallas Cowboys will have to put this play-calling decision aside and figure out  what to do with the roster. They have created an unnecessary distraction by shrouding this decision in a veil of secrecy, so that storyline won’t completely go away.

But it’s time to prioritize the changes that need to take place from a personnel standpoint. The Cowboys have spent the past eights seasons drafting players for a 3-4 defensive scheme. But in the blink of eye, they decided to change course to the 4-3.

Monte Kiffin, one of the architects of the famed “Tampa 2” style of defense, charmed reporters in a meet-and-greet at Valley Ranch on Thursday.

He could use a three-technique defensive tackle, preferably one who’s smart enough to call a cab after a few drinks. I know for a fact the Cowboys have spent a lot of time studying Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, but they aren’t sold on him yet.

This would also be a good spot to think about an interior offensive lineman. Alabama’s Chance Warmack and North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper are both on the Cowboys’radar. Some experts think Warmack could go in the top 10, but I think the Cowboys will benefit from at least one desperation pick for a quarterback. It’s going to happen with Geno Smith and it could be the same for N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon.

The Cowboys also need help at safety, although they were able to sign starter Barry Church to a contract extension despite him suffering a ruptured Achilles’ tendon last season. There’s a belief that Kiffin’s defense will be more sound than his predecessor’s Rob Ryan. And by sound I mean the Cowboys will likely have the proper amount of players on the field at times.

Jerry Jones made a splash in free agency last season when he signed cornerback Brandon Carr to a huge contract. Then he gave long-term deals to guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings. This O-line rarely functoned well and it looks like starting right tackle Doug Free has regressed.

Oh, and offensive line coach Bill Callahan might moonlight as the offensive play-caller.

The Cowboys need to stop talking about rebuilding the offensive line and actually do it. They were so proud of themselves for unloading the likes of Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis in recent years. But they haven’t come up with viable replacements. No offense to Ryan Cook, but the center position was a joke. The Cowboys had to trade a seventh-round pick for Cook just to make it through the season.

This organization basically whiffed in consecutive drafts (’09 and 10), and that has led to a shortage of quality players on the roster.

The Cowboys can’t afford for that to happen again. They will dream of Aggies defensive end Damontre Moore (seriously) being available at No. 18 overall, but it won’t happen.

Look for Kiffin to a play a large role in what happens. Jerry’s enamored with the old fella, so he’ll be all ears. Garrett will be a lame-duck head coach next season and it will be hard for him to show any muscle on draft day.

The Cowboys allowed former offensive line coach Hudson Houck to have a huge say in the selection of left tackle Tyron Smith two years ago, so there”s precedent. What you hope happens is the team actually has a plan in place and doesn’t stray from it at the first sight of a speedy wide receiver.

The positive news is that identifying offensive and defensive linemen seems to be the biggest priority for the Cowboys right now. It’s that type of approach that has kept teams such as the Ravens, Patriots and Steelers in the hunt for a title most seasons.

This is a time when clarity is in short supply at Valley Ranch. And that’s why the possible existence of a real plan feels earth-shattering.