Depth one of biggest problems

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
10:05
AM ET
When you hear what Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has said since the season ended there seems to be a missing link here: Depth.

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Jones talked about how injuries shouldn't be used as an excuse for why the Cowboys defense struggled at times in the 2012 season. While that's an accurate statement, it's also misleading.

You're only as good as your depth.

In the 2012 season, the Cowboys signed 17 players as free agents either as injury replacements such as Charlie Peprah, Eric Frmapton and Brian Moorman, or re-signed players who had been in training camp like Ben Bass.

But the draft is a pivotal way to build depth in case starters get hurt.

The Cowboys had 11 drafted players as backups in the 2012 season including two former first round picks in Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins.

As the season progressed, Josh Brent (a 2010 seventh round supplemental pick) and Sean Lissemore (2010 seventh rounder) earned starting gigs. Eventually Brent was lost for the season after his arrest and Lissemore missed six games with an ankle injury. With those players out, the Cowboys turned to players like Bass (undrafted free agent), Tyrone Crawford (2012 third round pick) and Brian Schaefering (undrafted free agent) to fill-in along the defensive line.

Inconsistency among many of the backups hurt the Cowboys more than anything else.

The Cowboys needed more plays out of Victor Butler, a fourth-round pick in 2009 and John Phillips, a sixth rounder in the same year. Jones, the franchise's first pick in 2008, battled injuries and was below average as a running back.

There were some good things from some backups.

Dwayne Harris, a sixth-round pick in 2011, emerged as a solid returner and made some plays in the passing game to earn a look as the No. 3 receiver in 2013. The Cowboys extended Lissemore's contract to 2016, Crawford and rookie draft picks Kyle Wilber and James Hanna have a future.

And while Jones talks about not using injuries as an excuse, we agree with him there, he needs to make sure he has better players to choose from when it's time to use his reserves.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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