1Develop a defensive line: It’s time to help the defensive line, which lost two expected starters (Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff) and a backup (Tyrone Crawford) out of the gate. Defensive tackle and defensive end are priority spots in the off-season.
2Find a safety: The Cowboys like the physical nature of Barry Church, and rookie J.J. Wilcox showed range. But Church has not proven he is a cover safety, and Wilcox was inconsistent and hardly imposed his will. Church, Wilcox and Jeff Heath need to be pushed.
3Game management: The Cowboys under Jason Garrett do not show a grasp of game situations. Garrett and his staff must maximize their understanding of the play clock, timeouts, field position and the value of making the other team use a timeout versus trying to pass for a first down. In three seasons under Garrett, the Cowboys have not improved in this area.
4Run it more: The Cowboys are built for the pass. They can move the ball with the pass. But the more they pass, the more instability comes into the game — incompletions, turnovers, clock stoppages, penalties — that all lengthen the game. The Cowboys have a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in years. They will do themselves a favor next year by using him.
5Figure out third down: The Cowboys were 35 percent on third down, 25th in the league. That was their worst third-down performance in 11 years, and it was one of the reasons the Cowboys had their worst time of possession, 29:02, in 11 years also. Even a 3 percent improvement on third down will be meaningful. — Carlos Mendez