The NFC East gets a whole lot of attention – which is going to happen when you’ve got four huge media markets – but from a football standpoint, how does the division stack up to the rest of the league?

“I think the division itself is kind of getting watered down, except for the Philadelphia Eagles,” Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith said on The Morning Show. “I mean, the Giants are having their struggles, the Washington Redskins are still trying to bounce back, (and) the Dallas Cowboys are truly struggling defensively and have yet to figure out (how to have a balanced offense). So it makes the NFC East look pretty weak.”

Looking at Dallas specifically, Smith isn’t convinced that the Cowboys will be able to stop anybody this year. But who’s to blame for that? Does it fall more on Jason Garrett or Jerry Jones?

“At the end of the day, you got to have talent to play this game,” Smith said. “You cannot just bring guys off the street and think that you can put them on the football field and compete at this level and do it on a consistent basis. You definitely got to have some talent. But I think the one thing that can help the Dallas Cowboys (is balance on offense). When your defense is struggling, you cannot afford to turn the football over in the air or on the ground. The one thing you have to do is try to control the clock. The best way to do that is not in the air; it’s actually on the ground. If we go out this year trying to throw the football, the clock is going to stop, we’re going to punt the ball and you’re going to give our opposing teams more opportunities to score more points on us because our defense cannot hold up – and I know that.”

“And so for me, it falls back on the coaches. What are the coaches thinking about in terms of the strategy for this entire season, especially when you understand that your defense is not up to par?”

But what about Jones? Doesn’t he deserve some blame here for three consecutive 8-8 seasons?

“Mr. Jones, in my opinion, is a brilliant owner,” Smith said. “He knows how to run an organization and make an organization very, very profitable. He has shown that and proven that time and time agin. But now we find ourselves in a situation where we have been very mediocre over the last six to seven years and that is just unacceptable for any organization, let alone the Dallas Cowboys. I just think the commitment itself has to come from the top to the bottom.”

Smith was also asked about Johnny Manziel and whether the thinks the 21-year-old can succeed in this league.

“I think Manziel has the potential to be a very good quarterback in the National Football League,” Smith said. “Obviously, he has a lot to learn. The game itself has not slowed down enough for him. It’s still moving fast. He has to make the adjustment. But I do think that once he makes the adjustment, he’s going to bring a different element to the game that’s going to be pleasing for the Cleveland Browns.”

Pleasing, yes. But effective? We’ll have to wait and see. Smith believes Manziel will have to move around in the pocket and buy time when the line breaks down, but he can’t do that for the entire season. As a result, he must elevate the mental part of his game to the point where he is reading coverages and getting the ball out of hands quickly.

Smith is also intrigued by another hot-button rookie, Michael Sam, who is on the Cowboys’ practice squad. Smith’s take on this matter is as rational as it gets.

“The Cowboys need all the help they can get,” Smith said. “If Michael Sam comes to the table with something that can help the Dallas Cowboys, then let it be.”


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