MOBILE, Ala. -- Jerry Jones called Sunday a tough day of watching football.
"It's not always a fun day, from my perspective, watching those ballgames," he said.
But it was an instructive day for the Cowboys owner.
Speaking at the Senior Bowl, where he and the coaching staff watched the first day of practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Jones said the defensive play of all four semifinalists is an example for the Cowboys, that the Giants did what he hoped the Cowboys would -- get hot at the right time -- and that only quarterback Tony Romo was playing at a high enough level down the stretch.
Touching on a variety of topics in a 25-minute conversation with reporters Monday, Jones also said the Cowboys may have been "overzealous" in going so young in the interior offensive line and that there will be changes in the defensive secondary, although he said it wouldn't surprise him to see veteran Abe Elam return.
Jones said he can see the Cowboys playing a style of defense like Baltimore, although he acknowledged that the Ravens have superior ability at safety.
"We can look at Baltimore and say that's a little bit of the look that we've got to be," Jones said.
Jones said the play of the 49ers linebackers showed him the potential of speed at that position in the 3-4. He watched 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman closely because the Cowboys had he and Sean Lee graded closely in the draft two years ago.
"We had Bowman and Lee just right there together," Jones said. "It shows me in the 3-4, you have a couple of real fast linebackers and make it work, even in the 3-4. I really like the way they played defensively. Frankly, all the teams."
In watching the Giants, Jones said the biggest difference between them and his team is how the Giants got on a roll at the end of the season and the Cowboys did not.
Of course, the Giants got on a roll at the expense of the Cowboys -- beating them twice in the last four games.
"Just like the Green Bay Packers were last year, in a different way, they're a real inspiration of, frankly, what I had hoped that we were going to be, and that is a team that had played, had good days and bad days, but then near the end, really took off on a run and then really made improvement," Jones said. "They did it, and we didn't. We went the other way."
The Cowboys were on a four-game winning streak, were 7-4 and led the NFC East by one game when they slumped, losing four of their last five. Meanwhile, the Giants, on the edge of elimination, won at Dallas, beat the New York Jets and beat the Cowboys again in the last week of the season to complete their rally and make the playoffs.
Jones said the play of Eli Manning at quarterback and the defense made the difference for the Giants.
"We had good quarterback play, but I'd say as a team, they just got better and better near the end," Jones said of the Giants. "Their depth, that's how I view us. I had counted -- we had counted -- on getting better, and we didn't. We went the other way."
Jones was so impressed by the level of the Giants' play, he's not sure the Cowboys could have matched it even in the playoffs.
"I don't know that we would have been competing, had we gotten in the playoffs, at the level the Giants are," Jones said. "I thought Romo was competing at a level that would have given us that opportunity, but the rest of us need to play better and get better before we can be really jelling the way the Giants are."
Jones said the Cowboys might have invested too much in youth in the middle of the offensive line, although the young players -- Bill Nagy, Phil Costa, Kevin Kowalski -- earned their opportunities. Jones said the Cowboys have to balance the progress of young players with protecting Romo.
"We've got to look at the whole picture and make sure we don't compromise things because, again, I'm more into not squandering the prime years of Romo," Jones said.
"And so we want to make sure we've given him every opportunity, and protection's one of those opportunities. And we'll work hard on that in our off-season."
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407