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April 23, 2013

Cowboys could be going OL 1st in draft again

IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys went 30 years without drafting an offensive lineman in the first round. They might do it for the second time in three drafts Thursday night.

Blockers are among the needs after Dallas signed two free-agent guards last year and still finished second-to-last in rushing in the NFL.

If the Cowboys take a guard in the first round, it will be just the second time in franchise history. John Niland went with the fifth overall pick in 1966, and only made six Pro Bowls in his 10 pro seasons.

Right tackle is a question, too, after Doug Free had a bad year and became a part-time player alongside undrafted free agent Jermey Parnell.

If Dallas gets a guard early, it will probably involve moving up for the third time since 2010, when a sliding Dez Bryant was taken late in the first round. The top two guards, Chance Warmack of Alabama and Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina, are projected as top 10 picks by many draft analysts.

The Cowboys have the 18th pick, and plenty of needs if they stand pat.

One of those is the other part of the running game — the guy carrying the ball. There’s no established backup to the injury-prone DeMarco Murray after Dallas decided not to bring back Felix Jones.

“Running the football is something we have to do better, there is no question about that, so we will try to do that a lot of different ways: how we coach the run game, how our players execute the run game, certainly adding players is a big part of that,” coach Jason Garrett said Monday. “But, again, we want to be true to drafting the best players throughout this whole draft process to help our team get better.”

Depth at safety is an issue after Gerald Sensabaugh became a salary cap casualty. Barry Church is expected to start after missing most of last year with a torn Achilles tendon. Second-year player Matt Johnson, who missed all of his rookie season with a hamstring injury, will be in the mix along with veterans Danny McCray and Will Allen.

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