The Dallas Cowboys desperately need another pass rusher to complement outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Over the past two seasons, Ware was double-teamed frequently, but still managed to finish first and second in the NFL for most sacks recorded each year. However, the Cowboys’ defense was torched by top-tier offenses as well as those near the bottom of the NFL barrel. Now team owner Jerry Jones says Dallas will finally look to add another pass-rusher in the 2012 NFL Draft.
“Real impressive pressure from someone other than Ware would be a dramatic influence on this defense,” Jones said. “It would actually impact how we play the defense. So, we’re always looking for a pass-rusher.”
Jerry Jones hitting the nail on the head regarding a personnel move? Stranger things have happened, but he’s exactly right; an effective pass-rusher would change the way the Cowboys play defense. Such a change would transform the Cowboys’ defense from a below-average-to-average unit to an above average unit almost instantaneously.
The Cowboys’ defense was awful in 2010 and 2011 because of a chain reaction that starts up front. First, Dallas’ defensive line put virtually no pressure on opposing quarterbacks either season. Dallas recorded 35 sacks in 2010, good for 16th-best in the NFL and then bumped that number up to 42 sacks in 2011, which tied for seventh-best in the league.
The jump correlates to Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s first season in Dallas, but the lone constant is the defensive line. Dallas’ linebackers accounted for 52 of those 77 total sacks from 2010-’11 while the Cowboys’ defensive line only recorded 16.5 of them. Heck, the Cowboys’ secondary recorded 8.5 sacks over those two seasons!
So the next part in the chain reaction is opposing quarterbacks having all day to throw the ball when guys like Ware get double-teamed. That resulted in the Cowboys’ secondary getting grilled like well-done New York Strip Steaks – over and over again.
However, Dallas’ secondary would have been beat by a Pop Warner offense in 2010 and ’11. So why the need for a pass-rusher, you ask?
Ryan’s scheme is built around pressure from the front seven and a Cover 2 scheme back deep. The Cowboys’ defensive ends absolutely must put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. If nothing else, they have to at least keep opposing offensive linemen from chipping them and then heading for Dallas’ linebackers.
If Ware is double-teamed less, he becomes a game-changer. All those sacks will start coming at more opportune times and help the Cowboys win close games, a category in which the team set franchise-worst records in 2011.
Jones didn’t elaborate as to which pass-rushers Dallas is targeting, but there are two available that are both solid choices: Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw and North Carolina’s Quinton Coples. If at least two of the other 13 NFL teams ahead of Dallas are smart, both players will be gone by the time the Cowboys are on the board at No. 14 overall.
Then Dallas can move on to players like Clemson’s Andre Branch, South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, Memphis’ Dontari Poe and LSU’s Michael Brockers. While these players range in position from defensive tackle to outside linebacker, the Cowboys can utilize them all.
A stud 3-4 defensive end like Coples would be ideal, but Dallas could use Brockers at nose tackle and then move Jay Ratliff to defensive end. The possibilities are endless, but it all starts with drafting a cornerstone pass rusher this year.