If the Dallas Cowboys want to make the playoffs there are a lot of things that have to get better. We have covered just how bad the defense was last season. There has been a lot written about the run game. Dare we even mention how much Tony Romo is talked about? These five players must improve this year if the Cowboys are to have a good season and improve over last year.
1. Morris Claiborne – With only 2 interceptions and 13 passes defended in his career, Morris Claiborne is on the verge of gaining the terrible “bust” tag. He has to start playing NFL football instead of SEC football. He needs to get his hands up and start making interceptions, heck at least start breaking up more passes. He faces Dez Bryant in practice, so he should be able to improve. If he starts getting torched by Terrance Williams, signs will point to bust instead of boom.
2. Bruce Carter – All the physical tools in the world and not a single interception or forced fumble. Bruce has at times looked lost and others has shown a flash. He needs to decide what type of player he is going to be. With Sean Lee out Carter has to get over the hump and have a huge season. I know the Cowboys don’t blitz much so sacks aren’t that expected, but he needs to react faster and maybe get a tackle for loss here and there. Without Carter improving it could be a long season again on defense.
3. Gavin Escobar – Yea I know he is a 2nd year guy, but he was pretty much a non factor last year. The biggest improvement he must make is in blocking. If he can get his blocking down he can take some pressure off of Jason Witten. In the passing game he can create mismatches with his size, but he has to improve so Tony Romo has faith to throw to him. He can run some routes and make a catch here and there, but he needs to get more involved.
4. Tyrone Crawford – Crawford is an interesting case to be in this list. I could have put a couple of other players here, but I think if Spencer isn’t playing Crawford will be relied upon to be the starting DE. I could also see him moving inside from time to time as a DT. He has to get a pass rush going. The Cowboys do not blitz often and will need to rush four and get pressure. Without Crawford at least making some noise the DL will be easy to game plan for.
5. J.J. Wilcox/Matt Johnson/Jeff Heath/(Insert Safety Here) - I couldn’t pick just one, since we don’t know who will be the starter. J.J Wilcox has the job for now, but the Cowboys love Matt Johnson, and as much as I think Jeff Heath might be the worst safety on the team, he is still here. The Cowboys also have two rookies in Keith Smith and Ryan Smith. Whomever the starter is has to be better, period. There can not be the missed tackles, blown coverages, and no ball challenges. The back end of the defense has to get better or again they will be eaten alive by every QB they face.
So those are the five Cowboys that have to improve this season. While I am sure there are some others that could have made the list, these five stand out as keys to helping the Cowboys make the playoffs. Who else would you add to the list? Who would you take off? Let me know….and please, no Tony Romo jokes.