IRVING Defense might have been the most frequently used buzzword by Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett during a pre-draft news conference Tuesday at Valley Ranch.
And that should come as no surprise.
The Dallas Cowboys overachieved defensively under Rod Marinelli last season, but still ranked 19th in the league.
As Jerry Jones said, “We do need to help the defense … by hook or crook.”
The most glaring need might be the cornerback position. The Cowboys had the seventh-worst pass defense in the league last season, and have more questions surrounding that position than any other with a lack of depth there.
Their best corner, Orlando Scandrick, is staying away from the voluntary off-season program for now because he feels he deserves more money. Brandon Carr could be forced to take a pay cut or be cut. And Morris Claiborne has largely been a bust since coming into the league, and might not be ready for the start of training camp after suffering a significant knee injury last year.
And that's not to mention the loss of Sterling Moore in free agency.
So the Cowboys have done plenty of advance work on this year’s cornerback class, and it’s a deep one. They brought in 11 defensive backs for pre-draft visits, including the top corners in the draft such as Washington’s Marcus Peters, Connecticut’s Byron Jones, LSU’s Jalen Collins and Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson.
All of those higher-tiered prospects could be options should they reach the Cowboys with the 27th overall pick, although Stephen Jones reminded that they must make sure they don’t “reach” for any of them.
“You got to do your homework and not reach for something,” Stephen Jones said. “And push for something that is not there.”
In other words, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys go in a different direction early with the belief there is better cornerback value in the later rounds.
An intriguing cornerback to watch will be Quinten Rollins out of Miami (Ohio), who visited with the Cowboys. He spent four years as the point guard on the basketball team and then switched to football for a year, where he has established himself as a legitimate prospect. He has tremendous upside and is projected to be as high as a second-round pick.
Other second-round names include Florida State’s P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby. Or maybe the Cowboys wait to see which cornerbacks are around later in the fourth or fifth rounds.
They could grab TCU’s Kevin White or Kansas’ JaCorey Shepherd at that point.
However it unfolds, the Cowboys will likely improve their cornerback depth by the end of the draft.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760