5 issues the Dallas Cowboys must fix that don’t involve Earl Thomas

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since Earl Thomas grabbed Jason Garrett after the Seattle Seahawks game against the Dallas Cowboys in 2017 and told Garrett to get him from Seattle, Cowboys fans have dreamed of signing the future Hall of Fame safety.

Now that he’s a free agent, many can’t believe the Cowboys haven’t signed the Texas native. But, Jerry Jones recently made it clear to 105.3 The Fan that the Cowboys are more interested in solving their problems from within. Unfortunately for fans clamoring for Thomas to return home, this heavily implies the Cowboys aren’t interested in bringing him in.

And while the safety position remains an area of need for the Cowboys, Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Rams made it very clear that they have major problems that Thomas can’t solve.

Here are the five issues the Cowboys must address that can’t be fixed by signing Earl Thomas.  

Concern on Cowboys’ offensive line

No fan expected the Cowboys to start an undrafted rookie on the offensive line in Week 1. Once a major strength of the team for almost a decade, this unit suddenly became a potential weak spot for the offense. Tyron Smith can still dominate at left tackle, but injuries have hampered him in recent seasons. Zack Martin is one of the NFL’s best lineman of his generation, but the three other spots are shaky.

Connor Williams remains unproven at the other guard spot while career backup Joe Looney fills in at center for the retired Travis Frederick. And then you have the right tackle spot. La’el Collins is on injured reserve with an illness. In his absence, undrafted rookie Terence Steele is protecting Dak Prescott. He certainly wasn’t terrible in Week 1, but there’s a big problem behind him. If Steele struggles or suffers a serious injury, veteran swing tackle Cam Erving is on IR with an MCL sprain.

Pressuring the quarterback

On paper, the Cowboys’ front seven boasts star power with DeMarcus Lawrence, Everson Griffen, Aldon Smith, Dontari Poe and Randy Gregory on the line. All are capable of putting heavy pressure on the quarterback and changing the game. This should be a strength of a defense full of holes everywhere else, but it didn’t translate to consistent pressure in Week 1. While some credit goes to the Rams’ offensive line and Jared Goff’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly, great teams can do the same against the Cowboys.

Because the secondary isn’t the strength of the team, one area where Thomas would help, this defense can’t succeed without serious pressure from the line. Fortunately for Dallas, unlike many of these other issues, the talent is there. It’s just a matter of getting that talent to perform.

Fewer runs on first down

Jason Garrett now coaches offense for the New York Giants, but it felt like we saw him on Sunday Night Football in Week 1. Mike McCarthy retained offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and the offense looked very similar to what we saw in 2019. While Dallas led the NFL in yardage last season, it finished outside the top five in scoring. The insistence on running the ball on first down caused a lot of problems for the offense. The Cowboys ran it on first down 14 times in the season opener. It’s a strategy that has been proven ineffective, yet Moore keeps doing it even with a new head coach in charge.

Cowboys must replace Blake Jarwin

For more than a decade, the Cowboys never had to worry about the tight end position. Jason Witten played every game and was one of the most important offensive weapons. Those days are over. Witten signed with the Las Vegas Raiders, while the Cowboys would count on Blake Jarwin delivering a breakout season. Jarwin possesses a unique speed for the position and it makes him a dynamic weapon. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in Week 1 and is out for the season.

Backup tight end Dalton Schultz already proved he can’t fill Jarwin’s shoes. His big drop on second down preceded the fateful third-and-6 run and the controversial fourth-and-3 pass in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys are loaded with weapons at running back and receiver, so they might survive with an average tight end. However, Jarwin was poised for a big year with defenses focusing on Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Moving forward, the Cowboys must find someone who can step in as that pass-catching weapon to replace Jarwin.

Reliable Linebackers

The fact that the Cowboys felt comfortable going into the season with Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch as their starting linebackers tells you all you need to know about the Jones family’s priorities this season. The defensive line got all the attention and the LBs were essentially left alone. Smith was supposed to be a feel-good story about a player overcoming a devastating injury to become an NFL superstar. Unfortunately, he spends most of his time on the field looking lost, especially in coverage.

Vander Esch, on the other hand, replaced Sean Lee as the most impactful player on the defense. He also joined Sean Lee as the player who spends the most time on injured reserve. Lee returned to the Cowboys this season to serve as Vander Esch’s backup , but is already on IR following an offseason injury. There aren’t many NFL teams who succeed defensively with a thin linebacking corps. If there was an equivalent to Thomas at linebacker available, you can bet the Cowboys would go after him.

If the Cowboys sign Earl Thomas, fans will rejoice. While the safety position isn’t an area of strength for this team, it wasn’t the reason for the season-opening loss. The Cowboys must address these other areas before they can think about splurging on a player who might be more trouble than he’s worth.