BLOG: 2007 Cowboys Draft/Free Agency

TheRanchReport.com editor Roy Philpott introduces a new feature to Cowboys' fans ... an updated blog containing the latest news, opinions and analysis on free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft. Today's update takes a closer look at several new assistant coaches and why they are good hires as well as why the Cowboys need INSTANT help at free safety.

2007 Cowboys Free Agency/Draft Blog
FEBRUARY 14, 2007 - Happy Valentines Day to you and yours! Hopefully you are spending less time on the Internet and more with the person that "means the most." But hell, if you aren't, chances are you aren't missing that much anyway! On with the show...

'BOYS HIRE TWO - In case you missed it, the Cowboys announced the hiring of two more assistants Tuesday in Dat Nguyen, (assistant linebackers/defensive quality control coach) and Wesley Phillips (offensive assistant/quality control coach).

While the hiring of Phillips wasn't really a surprise considering he was a candidate in San Diego and elsewhere and also he's the son of new head coach Wade Phillips, bringing in Nguyen was something that wasn't exactly we at TheRanchReport.com saw coming.

Still, both moves look good on paper.

When you think about it, many fans have been less than thrilled with the addition of Wade Phillips as head coach- simply because he's more of the re-tread variety than as opposed to a young up-and-comer. However, a quick look at the Cowboys new staff reveals a nice blend of youth and experience with the younger Phillips and Nguyen, not to mention Jason Garrett and others.

So while Jerry may have gone old school with his head coach, there should be plenty of youthful firepower below him to get the job done.

Nguyen, who always was an overachiever on the field going all the way back to his days in College Station, is particularly intriguing. After all, wouldn't it be something to instill his kind of attitude in a player that is blessed with more natural talent?

NO SURPRISE WITH ZIM - Who would have thought that former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer would go back to his bread and butter- the 4-3 defense? Pretty much everybody that has followed the Dallas Cowboys the last 10 years, that's who.

According to several published reports since Zimmer was hired as the defensive coordinator with the Falcons in January, Atlanta will run the 4-3 defense next year.

Of course Zimmer had success in Dallas during his 13 years there- mostly running the 4-3 before the team switched over to the 3-4 two years ago. And while the Cowboys made strides the past two seasons in a new scheme, you always thought that it may not be such a good thing to have a coach that was set on the 4-3 actually coaching the 3-4.

Zimmer said of the move to Atlanta, "I didn't think I'd be leaving Dallas to go somewhere as a defensive coordinator. My contract was going to be up in 30 days, and Bill wasn't sure what he was going to do. I knew Atlanta had some good players. I knew they were in the NFC championship game a couple years ago."

FREE SAFETY STILL NEEDS HELP - There was talk coming out of Valley Ranch in early January that cornerback Anthony Henry may get additional consideration as a free safety next season.

Am I the only that fails to see the logic in this?

Furthermore, am I the only that fails to see the logic in actually drafting a free safety in the first two rounds?

Sure, I understand the need to add more depth on the offensive and defensive lines, but isn't it time to address one of the truly weak links on the team with a player that has speed, talent and knowledge of the position.

Honestly, I thought it was there with Patrick Watkins, but after watching his decline during last season, I'm not convinced he's the long-term answer. The fact of the matter is the Cowboys almost need a big cornerback with speed to fill the position. And right now you are thinking, 'why not Henry?' I'll tell you why- speed and his ability to cover someone 40 yards downfield have never been skills he's known for. At least not in my book.

It's time to look towards the first two rounds for a free safety- and that player needs to have some size, and just as important- some speed.

With that in mind, why not consider some of the top free safeties available this year- guys like LaRon Landry (LSU) and Reggie Nelson (Florida). I mean honestly, think about how many times this defense has been burned with the deep ball the last two seasons.

Roy Williams will ALWAYS need a free safety that can assist more in coverage situations because of his style of play. That's not changing folks.

Now is the time to address this need- and the draft would be the best way to do it.

To post comments about Roy's blog, or ask a question about the upcoming draft and free agency, please click here.
FEBRUARY 11, 2007 - First off, let me welcome you to our latest feature here at TheRanchReport.com- our 2007 NFL draft/free agency blog. I've received literally hundreds of e-mails about starting something like this for the last year or so, and now seemed like the ideal to finally get things moving. My hope is that not only will this be a place to share opinions on what happens at Valley Ranch, but also to paint a clear picture of what the Cowboys should be doing this off-season to get back to the playoffs and hopefully Super Bowl XLII. Now, on with the show!

Phillips Hire Prompts New Outlook- With the hiring of Wade Phillips just four days ago, the Dallas Cowboys organization is clearly changing. Sure, we expect several members of the old coaching staff to remain on board, but with a new head coach in place in Phillips, the Cowboys could go a number of different directions when it comes to free agency and the upcoming draft.

Some we may be ready for, others we may not.

In the coming weeks, we'll be taking a closer look some of the free agent targets that will be looked by the Cowboys, but with a new coaching staff in place- literally anything is possible right now. Remember, Phillips is a defensive-minded coach that has a proven track record of success in the 3-4 scheme, so he could see something with the Cowboys' current personnel that went unnoticed by former coach Bill Parcells.

By no means am I implying that Phillips is a miracle worker, but statistics do support the idea that Phillips' first year with a new team creates instant improvement, especially on defense.

Consider: Phillips took over as the head coach in Buffalo in 1997, after a 6-10 season, and led the Bills to the playoffs and a 10-6 record and the playoffs in 1998. In addition, his 1999 team led the NFL in total defense, went 11-5 and earned another trip to the postseason.

As a defensive coordinator with the Bills, Buffalo's defense allowed a league-low 22 touchdown passes and 3.4 yards per carry, while ranking second in sacks (48), yards per play (4.3) and opponent completion percentage (.520) in 1996.

In his first year with the Chargers, Phillips' defense allowed only 81.7 rushing yards per game, a number that ranked third in the league.

The statistics go on and on so I won't bore you with every single one- but go read his official bio and you'll see.

And while I'll be the first to admit that the hiring of Wade Phillips was anything but "sexy," the fact is with the talent he will inherit in Dallas, the stage is set for considerable improvement in 2007- especially on the defensive side of the ball.

And folks, I don't need to remind you the difference between winning and losing in the NFL is miniscule- especially when it comes to the Cowboys. A slight improvement with a team that already has talent can lead to great things.

No Salary Cap Hell - With over $17 million in cap room this off-season (and that number will go up), expect the Cowboys to be aggressive once again when it comes to acquiring veteran talent.

The good news is there should be plenty of talent to choose from, especially on the offensive line where 51 unrestricted free agents are set to test the open market.

But before the Cowboys take, "a look around," they've got some housekeeping issues of their own- like figuring out what to do with their own unrestricted free agents. Here's a look at the Cowboys' unrestricted free agents on the offensive line:

C Andre Gurode - The Cowboys want to keep Gurode after a strong showing in 2006 and have been working to re-sign him before he becomes a free agent on March 2. Gurode's improved play last season was something the organization has been waiting on for literally years. The talent has always been there, but the consistency hasn't- until last season. Keep in mind Gurode started all 16 games in 2006 and was eventually named to the Pro Bowl.

T Marc Colombo - Colombo started 14 games at right tackle and ended up being one of the pleasant surprises of 2007. Provided he's healthy, this former first round pick has proven he can be a consistent performer at the NFL level. Like Gurode, the Cowboys will work to keep Colombo.

C Al Johnson - Once considered a starter, Johnson's productivity fell off after the emergence of Gurode last season. Sure, Johnson could come back, but it would have to be at the right price and he be better served by moving on. Remember, Johnson started 31 consecutive games at center entering the 2006 season but only saw spot duty once Gurode stepped up his play.

Keep in mind the Cowboys also have questions surrounding other players on the o-line, especially right guard Marco Rivera. Rivera was injured in the Wildcard loss at Seattle and had an MRI done on his back after it locked up on him on the plane ride home.

Stay tuned for more on Rivera in the coming weeks.

To post comments about Roy's blog, or ask a question about the upcoming draft and free agency, please click here.

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