Cowboys Weekend Mailbag – Donald, Pryor, Ware, and #JTONTFJTGM

I want to make sure we get back in the habit now with football season over of the end of the week Cowboys mailbag that can cover all things Cowboys, all things draft, or, of course, all things Cowboys’ draft.  
Many of these questions were a result of the pieces that we put out this week or last regarding the draft weekly notebooks.  This week I profiled 6 defensive tackles and now I am currently putting together next week’s project that will contain a half-dozen or so safeties who the Cowboys could target for their defense.  
Let’s get started.


We normally agree on our draft reviews and I know you are really high on Aaron Donald but I am not totally sold on this guy. He has the size and he doesn’t often get pushed off the ball. I think his biggest strong suit is that he will always fill a gap. That being said I think he is football stupid. He doesn’t seem to have an eye for the ball or how the play is developing. It seems like he is always right there and just does not realize that the ball carrier is right there for the taking. This scares me for a 4-3 system that is based on the front line making the plays instead of a 3-4 where you just need gap control for the front line. (Really it’s obviously bad in any system) I also think he gives up on double teams way too easily.  All that being said, I think this guy has huge potential. All the skills are there and when he wants to he get a major push up the field. He just needs to learn how to finish. Have you noticed this and if you agree do you think this can be taught?

Also, I think Jerry will think his D-line is fixed with Tyrone Crawford and Spencer back thus leading Jerry to draft a Safety.

Lastly, in what round do you think Jerry stops having legitimate input on the draft? I don’t mean this as a joke. I honestly believe Jerry lets his scouts and coaches handle day 3 of the draft because he didn’t do the research. Sounds crazy but really….Papa Johns

Thank you draft leader,
Adam Himelfarb

Adam, I am flattered to have your compliments on this front, but I have to tell you, I am not sure I follow any questions of the intelligence level of Aaron Donald from what I have watched.  First off, he is a defensive tackle.  I don’t mean to insult every defensive tackle who ever played, but if there is a position on the football field that values decision making and thus intelligence less than DT, I am not sure what it would be.  These guys have very few reads or responsibilities that are not repeated over and over.  In fact, it is basic, hand to hand combat and technique that is instilled with 100s of reps.  Once that is down, it is a matter of leverage, strength, and of course, knowing how to win in close quarter and the motor to keep working hard at all times.

With that in mind, Donald is a fantastic player.  He is not a guy who fills a gap, he is a guy who shoots the gap like a linebacker, except he is almost 300 pounds.  He is a terror who spends his day in the backfield because of quickness and great work ethic.

I don’t often recommend that someone looks at a player through a highlight film, but I do want to leave this here and let anyone who has 11 minutes marvel at all of the plays he made in 2013 alone.  He is as productive a player as there was in college football while playing on a team without many other threats but against consistently strong competition.  I love him and his game.  I think he will be a star in this league and it won’t take long.  After all, he has a highlight tape THAT IS 11 MINUTES LONG AS A DEFENSIVE TACKLE!  That doesn’t happen.


I agree that we need defensive line help. Hell we needed defensive line help last year. But if the best player available when we draft is a offensive linemen I would draft them. It would be come the strength of the team, the run game improves, keeps Romo upright and on time. And we should be thinking of the next QB in the near future. If 2-3 years from now a rookie QB has a pro bowl quality line I like his chances to succeed early. (ie Niners)


YES!  Travell, you have this thing down.  I don’t for a single second recommend that they blindly take the best defensive lineman available.  That would be silly.  If somehow, the best choice for them is an offensive lineman, then I jump on it in a heartbeat.  I will be doing work on the OL in March for sure and making sure we turn over every rock there, too.  This team needs help in the trenches on both sides of the ball and although Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick look like premium players and Doug Free is passable, you could upgrade both guard spots without any effort and you also need depth.  On defense, I think you could argue that all 4 spots need players.  Beyond that, I could see Safety and maybe Linebacker as possible homes for my 1st round pick and yes, even Quarterback.  

Let’s not be stubborn about where this team could use help.  They can use help in many, many spots.  

However, ties do go to the defensive front.


It seems every year the media and fans fret over the Cowboys being so far over the cap but will the constant restructuring of contracts ultimately catch up with them or not? Todd Archer, noted cap expert, believes this way of doing business will not catch up with them and that they manage the cap fine, it’s just who they have chosen to give money to that’s the problem. Agree or disagree?

– Jason

I am a big fan of Todd Archer and I think he knows as much about the Cowboys cap situation as 
anyone who doesn’t work in the front office.  

That said, without knowing exactly what he said that you are referencing, but I don’t particularly believe that the Cowboys are "fine" with their cap issues.  They are over the cap this year and can get out of the mess by restructuring and cutting a few players here and there.  However, this conveyor belt of silliness gets worse with the Romo deal kicking in and with his back situation a big issue moving forward, that is as close to a ticking time bomb as it gets.

But, more than anything, as this team at least considers ways to deal with DeMarcus Ware’s crazy $16m cap number this year, we must look carefully at what they should be doing this summer which is trying to do extensions with either Dez Bryant or Tyron Smith or both of them.  Both deals expire at the end of next season and both are going to be fantastically huge deals because they are both players of great appeal if they ever get to free agency.

Bryant has proven to be every bit of quality they hoped for, and therefore, the going rate for a receiver of his level likely starts above Mike Wallace’s deal in Miami last year (5/$60m) and below the Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson deals of 8/$128m and 8/$132m.  Let’s call it 6/$75m as a realistic place to put that.

Smith could be even crazier, as a starting left tackle who is going to be 24 years old as an unrestricted free agent.  There is no telling where that bidding might go, but let’s say the low point is Trent Williams and Jason Peters 6/$60m and on up to Joe Thomas with his deal at  7/$84m.

So, those are the two major Cowboys decisions to make here in the next few months with the monstrosities of both DeMarcus Ware’s and Tony Romo’s deals hanging around their neck with no promises that those are both premium players anymore.  And let’s not forget that DeMarco Murray will need a deal after 2014, as well.  These are all major contracts and without much cap flexibility these days and the need for players at all sorts of spots, it would seem to me that the Cowboys cap situation is as stretched as any team in the league.



I’d much rather Sutton with the 47th pick than Donald at 16/17. We have depth at DT in this draft. A point can be made that the Cowboys could use a FS badly, but depth isn’t the same at that position in this draft. My pick at that position for the ‘Boys would have to be Calvin Pryor over Dix. Pryor is a true FS where Dix looks more like a SS which we have plenty. A point can be made that picking a Guard to solidify our O-Line for the next 7 years would make heaps of sense. A) you are not only helping Romo for the next 2 years but you’re setting it up real good for his replacement, B) Leary has knee issues and Bernardeau is really your back-up G/C. My picks for the first 2 rounds would be Zack Martin/Calvin Pryor then Will Sutton in the second.


I don’t hate this plan at all, Luc.  However, let’s remember that we have no guarantee that Will Sutton will be there at #47, nor do we have a guarantee that he will return to his weight and his 2012 form.  He is a very interesting player and as I said in my report on him, I love him as a 3-technique if he can return to his old form.  He is a really solid prospect, but his name is mud for his 2013 and his weight gain slowing down his explosiveness.  

Zack Martin is really something and a prospect I am very excited about.  I saw him look great in a number of games at Notre Dame as a left tackle and he never really seemed stressed or bothered even though he faced a ton of fine competition.  

Calvin Pryor is really, really impressive.  In watching 4 of his games this week, I feel like he is the real deal as a free safety prospect and while I would never use the comps of Earl Thomas to curse a kid, he sure has some tendencies and abilities that will get you fired up.  If the Cowboys left round 1 with any of these names, I would be really pleased.  However, of the group, I am still on Aaron Donald as the best of the bunch.  By the way, I agree that I would take Pryor over the Alabama safety at this point, but I want to watch some more of both before next week’s safety report.

Bob, if we draft 2 solid DTs, would you be comfortable in starting Tyrone Crawford at LDE and George Selvie at RDE? Considering age and health, I think Selvie could be an upgrade over Ware (never imagined I would say something like that). As for Crawford, we know that he must recover from his Achilles surgery, but assuming he comes back 100%, I think he could be a solid starter. Your thoughts?


Well, Koji, I promise that I have no idea what kind of pass rusher Tyrone Crawford is because in 2012 he was underwhelming and he didn’t play at all in 2013.  In 2011 and 2010 at Boise State, he had 6.5 and 7 sack seasons, but always was their 2nd best rusher to Chicago LB Shea McClellin (the man most famous for breaking Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone and not doing much else so far in the NFL).  

I like Selvie quite a bit, however, I do wonder what sort of upside we should expect as he plays his 2nd year at bargain prices and huge downs.  It seemed that as the season went along, his effectiveness might have slowed considerably.  

Also out there is the question of Anthony Spencer and whether he will play again in Dallas and mores whether he will ever resemble the rather dominant player that he was under Rob Ryan in 2011 and 2012 where he was a fantastic and horribly underrated player here in Dallas.  Snap for snap, he made as many plays as DeMarcus Ware did over that entire stretch of games and was certainly not praised much locally.

Last March, I wrote a piece about the Cowboys getting out ahead of the DeMarcus Ware contract issue by moving him in the 2013 offseason, but they didn’t – Nor, did I expect them to seriously pursue the idea.  

The Ware situation is very present and if I am him, I am not hearing any talk of a Doug Free re-do of the deal that he earned.  He is guaranteed money and he should get what he can.  But, from a Cowboys standpoint, if you were to get out ahead of the Dez/Tyron contract situations, this would be a quick way to do it – cut Ware now, and eat a ton of cash, but free up another ton.  

I don’t like it because it seriously weakens your present squad and puts your needs high at every spot, but as you said, it might mean that Selvie and Crawford our your top ideas at DE, although I think Crawford might already be your top idea at the 3-technique, too.  In other words, depth is a significant issue right now.

Michael sent me this regarding the piece last week that compared Seattle to the Dallas scheme:

Kiffin said the same thing right after he was hired – look to Seattle. Yet, the Cowboys moves along the DL that off season told me the comparison wasn’t accurate. 

The difference between the two is largely in the line play. Carroll’s genius is in his reworking of the under front to be more effective against spread offenses by using a couple of 2 gapping DL to counter running sets out of the spread. And this allows them to do different things with their LBs, CBs, etc..

The rub here is that the Cowboys actually had the guys along the DL to run a Seattle like under front last season, but cut them. Not that Lissemore is Red Bryant, but he can certainly play a 2 gap tech at the 5 spot like Bryant. 

The one player Seattle has that no other team can match is Earl Thomas. You can’t run Cover 1 or 3 like they do without him. 


I think we are still saying that Seattle can do plenty Dallas cannot dream of doing largely due to personnel issues in both places.  Seattle has an overabundance of versatile players and Dallas is combing the waiver wire just to put 11 guys in place.

But, we won’t argue at all about what Earl Thomas allows, and that is why – even though everyone would be thoroughly frustrated if the Cowboys took a safety in the 1st round after taking a safety in 3rd Round in 2013 – JJ Wilcox and a safety in the 4th round in 2012 – Matt Johnson – neither of which appear to have plugged a hole yet, I would have no problem with the Cowboys grabbing Calvin Pryor from Louisville who appears to be the most purest form of Free Safety in the draft, but he also comes with the ability to fly downfield and rattle some cages.

The 2-gap hybrid front that Seattle employs is advanced and different for sure.  I love it, but I do agree that this is where Dallas does not seem interested in following at this point, perhaps because they don’t have San Francisco in their division like the Seahawks do.  Any front in that division better be ready for the ground and pound that the 49ers offensive line can dish out, but with the Eagles and Redskins zone running and the Giants run aversion, it seems reasonable to suggest that this might not be an ideal fit here.  

The point is that regardless of scheme, it is the Jimmies and Joes rather than the Xs and Os that allow the Seahawks to have great success and I am guessing they could make just about any scheme work to their advantage.  Meanwhile, there is no scheme that can save a team that has almost nothing on its defensive line that is extraordinary at this juncture.


Finally, here are a couple of charts as a follow-up to the NFL Franchise Rankings piece that I turned out last week.

Many of you were asking me to divide things down to demonstrate how the Cowboys have fared over different periods of time, and most notably their job since their last Super Bowl, which, as you may recall was Super Bowl 30.  Look at this first one:

As you can see, based on the point system you can see that the river no longer flows.  Below is a brief reminder of the point system:

Here is how it works. Each Franchise gets 1 point for each season it makes the playoffs. Then, if it reaches the Conference Championship Game it gets a total of 3 points. If it makes the Super Bowl it gets 5, and if it wins the Super Bowl it wins the maximum total of points in a given year of 11. It used to be 10 for the Super Bowl, but I have adjusted it because I didn’t like the idea that 2 Super Bowl losses equaled a Super Bowl win. So, Now 11 points for a win and 5 for a loss in the Super Bowl.

This is the part of Jerry’s legacy he doesn’t care to talk about as much.  The since 1995 era, which has seen the football world catch up on all that Dallas had accomplished over 30 years.  The Cowboys, according to this year’s rankings are still tied with Pittsburgh at 108 points (although the Steelers have the tie-breaker of Lombardi Trophies, 6-5), but below look at how the margin has shrunk since the first year I started doing these rankings which was after the 2001 season.  
What once was a huge gap is now no gap at all.

Above find the origin of the #JTONTFJTGM hashtag, which of course, will echo the sentiment of the hopeless battle cry, "Jerry the owner needs to fire Jerry the General Manager".

Fat chance.

Have a good weekend and we will start anew next week.