Are the Dallas Cowboys built to absorb flawed players?
Jason Garrett has preached the importance of building a team with the “right kind of guys” ever since he became the Dallas Cowboys’ coach. That, in his mind, is how the team would build the “right kind of culture.”
For the most part, the Cowboys have succeeded in that department. Having the Tony Romos and Jason Wittens as veteran examples of how to do things the right way helps, of course, and so does their recent drafts.
The Cowboys’ past two first-round picks – center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin – entered the league with minimal makeup and character concerns, and have each excelled in their respective positions.
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So have players such as linebacker Anthony Hitchens, a fourth-round pick last season, and safety J.J. Wilcox, a third-rounder in 2013.
Building a nucleus with those types of core players allows the Cowboys to gamble on someone such as Rolando McClain, who exceeded expectations last season, and Greg Hardy.
And they might find themselves in position to roll the dice once again this weekend in the NFL Draft. If someone with as much talent and ability as Nebraska’s pass rusher Randy Gregory, for instance, slides to them at 27, the Cowboys shouldn’t be shy to pull the trigger.
Sure, Gregory has issues such as a failed drug test at the Combine, but the Cowboys believe they have built a roster that is capable of absorbing questionable players and bringing the best out of them.
“The first thing when you’re trying to establish the right kind of culture is, ‘Who do you allow in these doors?’” Garrett said. “And you’re going to have a better culture if you’re bringing better guys in. Having said that, if you’ve done that year after year after year, and you’ve developed that, you can absorb one of these guys maybe more than you could if your culture wasn’t quite as good and you didn’t have that quality of character on your team.
“That doesn’t give you carte blanche just to bring guys in and say, ‘We can absorb it. We can coach it out of them. We’ll create the right environment.’ These are really, really hard discussions that we have.
“We talk about it a lot. We do our due diligence. We go back and forth. We make arguments both ways, it’s a very serious consideration for us. The people we draft on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we’re not going to draft them by accident. We’re going to have gone over it over and over and over again, what our plan is for them now and going forward.”
Gregory provides the most intrigue because the Cowboys believe his pass rush skills will translate to the next level, and there’s a realistic chance he falls to them. One defensive coach added Tuesday that Gregory has a big enough frame where he could add weight and make a smooth transition to defensive end in Rod Marinelli’s 4-3 scheme.
Gregory was also among one of the prospects the Cowboys brought in to Valley Ranch for a visit.
As far as the individual visits, Garrett said it gives the organization a great opportunity to get to know the players on a more personal basis.
“We’re amateurs as coaches in figuring out what somebody is all about but we’ve done this a lot,” Garrett said. “We’ve seen players come down the pipe before and maybe we can make some comparisons. We have other people, more professional people, psychologists, sports psychologists, medical psychologists, a lot of different people talk to these guys. We’re trying to figure out who they are and what they’re all about, how important football is to them.
“We want to have high-character players on our team. We believe we can create an environment here for our football players to bring the best out in them. That’s our job. So we evaluate them very closely on a lot of different levels.”
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760