August 31, 2013

It’s becoming clear for Cowboys: Hold the secret sauce

The Cowboys have major depth issues to address one week before the season opener.

Carrie Underwood is warming up her new act. Al and Cris will soon be on the way to Arlington. Week One for the Dallas Cowboys is officially on the clock.

But let’s talk first about last week.

The way I had it figured, last week would be the most meaningless, football-wise, of all August weeks. I swore I wouldn’t get within five miles of that Thursday night exhibition season wrap-up against the Houston Texans.

And only that close because I live exactly 5.1 miles from the Big Yard.

Last week, by my estimation, would be good for only laughs.

Stephen Jones gave us his now infamous “secret sauce” comment.

Jerry Jones then topped No. 1 son by revealing he had a “40-year-old brain.”

Sometimes I just make up stupid stuff in this column. But really, it’s never necessary. Around here, the stupid stuff almost always falls right into your Dell.

Got to admit, however, I way, way underestimated last week’s football impact.

While the Jones family double-teamed us with the clowning, the Texans came to town and provided football clarity. Troubling clarity, but clear clarity.

If you cared to watch, and I forced myself to stay in front of the TV for some of it, the Houston backups blew the Cowboys’ backups off the field, then shoved ’em east on Randol Mill Road, all the way to the Grand Prairie city limits.

It was no surprise to learn the Cowboys have depth issues. But the Texans demonstrated just how serious those issues are, particularly in the offensive and defensive lines, although not necessarily confined to those areas.

Granted, Houston is a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the AFC. Contenders have depth.

A retired friend with NFL and college coaching experience formerly worked for the Canadian Football League, scouting NFL preseason games. The CFL teams are always looking for NFL cuts who might fit up north.

He traveled in August, watching six NFL clubs, including the Saints, Atlanta and Denver, plus the Cowboys and Houston.

By far, he said, the Texans have always had the most talented players at the bottom of the camp rosters, plus the legitimate NFL backups. Even before Thursday’s kickoff he was predicting total Houston domination, based on the depth comparisons of both clubs.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, have their depth strengths, particularly on the offensive side (receiver and running back), but the overall roster is about as deep as Jerry’s football brain, even the 40-year-old brain.

Injury issues could reduce this team to a 6-10 mess, and worst yet, the Cowboys already have injury issues.

It’s to the point where backup defensive tackle Sean Lissemore left the Thursday game with a possible concussion, and that’s a major emergency, particularly with the season opener now a week away.

Some of this stuff is simply bad luck. Injuries happen in football. Do you have the depth to overcome injuries?

But in other ways, the Cowboys make senseless decisions. Take Jay Ratliff, who is now a big internal mess for the team, plus he’s 32 years old and coming off a major injury.

With the switch to the 4-3 defense, however, Jerry repeatedly proclaimed Ratliff as the anchor in the middle of the revised defensive line. But, of course, Rat was injured the first day of training camp, hasn’t been on the field since then and, as of last week, won’t be on the field for the first six games of the season.

Plus, Ratliff is now seemingly blaming the Cowboys’ medical staff for why he’s out.

I know I trust the track record of the medical staff in that debate, but regardless, why in the heck was this team counting that heavily on an aging, injured Ratliff to begin with?

Obviously, a situation has existed forever with depth issues in the offensive line, and injuries have now weakened the defensive line.

Go back to April, and the draft. The Cowboys drafted for need in the first round. Travis Frederick at center appears to be a player. Regardless of the argument about Frederick being available in the second round, if he’s a player, the pick is good.

But in a cheap second guess, the team’s decisions beyond Frederick appear costly for this season.

The tight end in the second round, who won’t make an immediate impact, is now highly questionable. As much as I like Terrance Williams as one of the third-round picks, if you are drafting for need in the first round, there was also defensive and offensive line needs in the second and third rounds.

The other third-round pick was safety J.J. Wilcox. That was a need pick. In the fourth round, cornerback B.J. Webb now appears to be a distant reach.

At no time in the draft was a defensive lineman taken, and only one offensive lineman.

Yes, it’s now a cheap second guess. But it’s a legitimate second guess, based on what we now know, and what was observed Thursday night.

Last week gave us clarity. Houston reconfirmed exactly what the Cowboys don’t have, including any secret sauce.

Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

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