The twin sons of former NFL head coach Buddy Ryan had been out of the news too long before the more outspoken of the two made another bold and premature prediction on Tuesday morning. New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan said the Dallas Cowboys’ defense, coached by his brother Rob Ryan, will likely be the No. 2 unit in the NFL in 2012.
“I’ll be honest with you — they’ve got a chance to be second in the league in defense,” Rex Ryan said.
Rex Ryan made the exact same statement a year ago, implying his Jets would field the NFL’s top defense. However, New York finished 5th in overall defense in 2011 while Dallas came in 14th.
Last year was Rob Ryan’s first as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator and although he didn’t make the defense into a top-5 unit, Dallas did improve from the horrendous campaign the previous year under Wade Phillips.
“[The Cowboys] improved a touchdown a game over the previous season,” Rex Ryan said. “I think that’s impressive. That’s under the radar. I think you get criticized because they assume you took over a top-rated defense. That wasn’t the case.”
The Cowboys’ overall defense improved in 2011, but the passing defense didn’t. The Cowboys have addressed this already this off-season by signing cornerback Brandon Carr and safety Brodney Pool to shore up the secondary. However, the statistic Rex Ryan pointed out is the most intriguing.
Dallas finished 31st in scoring defense in 2011, allowing 27.3 points per game. Under Rob Ryan in 2012, the Cowboys finished 16th in the NFL, allowing only 21.7 points per game. As Rex Ryan stated, that’s an “under the radar” statistic – it goes unnoticed by most of the football world.
That’s not to say Dallas should be proud of its defensive performance in 2011; the Cowboys are expected to and should improve even more in 2012. While Rex Ryan’s guarantees are becoming familiar to the boy who cried “wolf,” Rob Ryan has a decent shot to make this one correct.