Priorities, Priorities

The Ranch Report takes a closer look at the Cowboys' true needs that need addressing before the 2010 begins.

There was a time when the term "offseason" really meant teams stopped working. That's not the case anymore, as teams are evaluating their rosters — and those of every other team — year-round, and constantly considering ways in which to improve.

At first glance, the Dallas Cowboys don't have any enormous glaring needs, which is to be expected for a team that surged to a division title and a playoff victory. The team is pretty talented across the board, but every team could use additional talent and depth, and as any coach will quickly point out, teams that aren't trying to improve will get passed by those that are.

So where are the Cowboys' biggest areas of need?

1. Offensive line
The starting five remains solid. Flozell Adams, Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo are a big, strong, smart, tough, veteran group that has played together long enough to have excellent timing and chemistry, allowing them to work well together as one of the NFL's better blocking units. When Colombo got hurt this year, Doug Free showed that he is at the very least, a more than adequate fill-in, and maybe a future starter.

But Adams is coming up on his 35th birthday, and the other four starters all are over 30. Most of the other backups — Montrae Holland, Cory Proctor, Pat McQuistan — are free agents. While he remains a formidable blocker, Adams no longer is as quick and athletic as he once was, and like with all offensive lines, this group has to be at least two deep. With all of those pending free agents, Free offers the only depth, and he can only play one tackle spot at a time.

2. Safety
When the Cowboys signed Gerald Sensabaugh to a one-year deal last offseason, they were reminded of something that was well known prior to the last few years of the (safety) Roy Williams era: it's really useful to have two safeties who, when needed, can cover someone.

If the team can re-sign Sensabaugh, he and Ken Hamlin will be a solid, veteran pair at the back end of the Dallas defense. But if he accepts another team's offer, a replacement is absolutely imperative. The team seems far more enamored with Pat Watkins as a special teams ace and backup at both safety positions, and Mike Hamlin missed part of his rookie season with a broken wrist. Maybe one of those two could take over, but neither has proven it yet.

3. Defensive line
This is a conditional entry on this list: If Marcus Spears skips town after accepting a big offer from another team — which many believe he will get — shoring up the defensive line becomes critical. If Spears walks, look for the team to make every effort to re-sign Jason Hatcher or Stephen Bowen, or maybe both. Each has shown flashes of the ability to play the position, but neither has played starter's minutes.

Of the two, Hatcher would get the first crack at the job, but if Spears leaves, look for Dallas to spend some free agent money — and probably a draft choice — on a big, playmaking defensive end.

4. Kicker
Does this one really need to be explained? Shaun Suisham is not without talent, but he missed crucial field goals — and relatively short ones, at that — as a member of both the Cowboys and Washington Redskins this year.

After the team dumped the inconsistent Nick Folk, Suisham was one of several kickers brought in to replace him. Since the Minnesota Vikings sent the Cowboys to a premature tee time, strong-legged kickoff specialist David Buehler — who didn't try a single field goal in his rookie season — has said he expects to compete for the field goal kicking job, and the team signed former Virginia kicker Connor Hughes. Suisham, who is a free agent, has yet to receive an offer to return and compete for the job.

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