Draft a Defensive Back

The masquerade that has taken place over the course of the last few weeks has left many Cowboy fans scratching their head. What is Jerry Jones thinking? Surely he recogonizes the need for improvement in the secondary.

We've all the heard the rumors by now.

First it was taking RB William Green with the sixth pick, now it's trading down to draft a tight end and a wide receiver in the latter half of the first round.

As draft day creeps closer and closer, the rumors get more wild and more unfounded. And while Jerry Jones has shown some interest in Boston College RB William Green, it seems unlikely that Green will be taken by the Cowboys with the number six pick.

Emmitt Smith, who will become the all-time leading rusher in NFL history around the halfway point of the 2002 season, deserves one more year in the spotlight as the Cowboys' featured back. Furthermore, he brings fans to Texas Stadium, and he can still get the job done at the ripe old age of 33.

Grabbing a player like William Green with the sixth pick in the draft can wait.

You know why? Because this team won't win one more game this season with Green in the lineup. The existing talent level at running back can, and will do the job next year.

No, that sixth pick needs to be devoted to one area, and one area only- and that's the secondary.

Aside from several thousand other reasons, with the emergence of the "fun-and-gun" in the NFC East, it won't hurt one bit to strengthen up what was in 2001, a very average defensive backfield.

Yes I know, I know, we already picked up Bryant Westbrook. Well, I've got news for you, Westbrook is likely only a temporary fix.

Sure, he was a dominant player coming out of Texas 5 years ago, and a pro-bowl performer in Detroit in 1999, but an achillies injury has a way of setting football players back a few notches. Unless something drastic happens with Westbrook, he is not what I would call a long-term solution in the secondary.

That brings us to the existing players.

The best thing you can say about cornerbacks Duane Hawthorne (51 tackles, 12 assists, 2 INTs) and Mario Edwards (42 tackles, 7 assists, 1 INT) is that they were respectable last year. Unfortunately, "respectable" doesn't get you to the Superbowl.

It also doesn't help that the Cowboys' coaching staff did not feel comfortable leaving either player isolated one-on-one with any of the opposing team's top 3 wide receivers. There has to be a certain confidence, almost a cockiness in your secondary, and it goes without saying that was non-existent last season.

At safety, Tony Dixon only saw limited playing time last season due to injury, but he's not really not what I would call a primetime candidate for stability in the defensive backfield. (at least not yet) Re-signing SS Darren Woodson was huge, and his presence on the field will pay dividends over the next couple of seasons. Right now, I would consider him to be the only lockdown player starting in the Cowboys' secondary.

The bottomline is that the talent level must improve. Using the "bend but don't break" philosophy can only work for so long. After a while, your weaknesses become exposed- and we began to see that more at the end of last season.

And that brings us back to this year's first round draft pick. With your passing defense being one of the weakest links on the field, and with Steve Spurrier becoming the head coach of your biggest rival, why wouldn't you want to do everything possible to improve your talent level in the secondary?

Trading down to grab a tight end should not be an option in a year that has more talent at the tight end position than any in recent memory. That pick can easily wait until the second or third rounds.

Bring me in a playmaker, like a Quentin Jammer or a Roy Williams, and this secondary, along with the rest of the defense, starts to become quite imposing.

I'm not picky, either one of those guys is fine with me. Both are the top players at their respective positions, and at least one of them will be available when Dallas goes on the clock with the number six pick.

This secondary is going to need help next year, and it will be up to Jerry Jones on April 20th to provide it with the sixth pick in the 2002 NFL draft.

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