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2015 Checklist: Draft Defense

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    SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 12: Owner Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys gives the 'thumbs up' to some Cowboys fans before the game aagainst the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on October 12, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

    Anyone who tells you they expected to the Cowboys to win 13 games, including a playoff game, in 2014 when the season began is a liar. Now, what do the Cowboys have to do to repeat their success in 2015?

    What to do: Draft defense

    Rod Marinelli's miraculous work in 2014 notwithstanding, there is still a lot left to be desired moving forward on the defensive side of the ball. Marinelli did a wonderful job working with what was given to him — the worst defense in football in 2013 that happened to lose its three best players to free agency and injury.

    With that said, the Cowboys did discover some guys who could be viable starters in the NFL, which is something we weren't really expecting. Anthony Hitchens stepped in as a rookie and was great as a linebacker, Rolando McClain was fantastic in a personal rebound year as a low-risk flier and Jeremy Mincey and Tyrone Crawford both proved to be viable options up front. But with that said, the Cowboys can do a lot to improve on the defensive side of the ball, and with the likely cap situation for 2015, the only way to address that will be through the draft.

    The national media has heaped praise on Jerry Jones & Co. for addressing the offensive line in the first round of the draft over the past three seasons, and now Jones must shift the draft's focus to defense. In fact, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see the Cowboys go straight defense in the upcoming draft with the possible exception of drafting a quarterback in the third or fourth round as a possible heir apparent to the aging Tony Romo.

    The biggest place to address is up front where the Cowboys must find some more pass-rushers. DeMarcus Lawrence, last year's No. 2 pick, showed flashes but still looked lost at times too after starting the season on the PUP list. It's mandatory to go early and often with defense and find some elite, young pass-rushers for the 2015 season.