When the Dallas Cowboys brought in Monte Kiffin as their defensive coordinator last week, there was plenty of speculation on if the Cowboys had the defensive players needed to make the transition to his 4-3 Tampa 2 scheme. Most of the talk has centered around questions about how DeMarcus Ware and the other Cowboys linebackers’ fit into the defense.
However, looking more into Kiffin’s scheme there are other positions that have questions that need to be answered in order to make the Tampa 2 work. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy spoke about the three positions that were needed in order to make the defense work; a defensive tackle that creates havoc inside, a weak side linebacker that can make plays and a versatile safety that can play in the box, as well as the speed to cover. The Cowboys, I believe, have the first two covered but maybe the most difficult position to fill is safety.
Looking at the Cowboys roster, the two starters currently at safety are Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh, and although good players, I don’t think either one is the answer in Kiffin’s system. I like Church and look forward to him being a solid player on the Cowboys for years to come, but they still need a better safety in coverage. This leads to the thought the Cowboys need to continue to look into drafting the versatile safety they’ve been missing since Darren Woodson retired. Or maybe that player is already on the roster.
We may have forgotten the Cowboys drafted a safety they really liked last year in Matt Johnson. They loved his ability last season, so much so the team continued to hold his roster spot even when he wasn’t healthy during the year in hopes that he would be able to contribute. Rob Ryan and the Cowboys saw something they liked in Johnson and if he can stay healthy, he maybe the safety the Cowboys believe can play in Kiffin’s system. Here is a scouting report on Johnson coming out of college from cbssports.com:
‘Plays with a linebacker mentality and toughness. Takes sharp angles to the play and stays smart. Strong football intangibles with leadership qualities and top work ethic. Good straight-line speed and plays decisive. Opportunistic with good ballskills, doing a nice job tracking and attacking. Arrives to the ballcarrier with bad intentions and looks to separate ball from player.’
Sounds a lot like a former Monte Kiffin prodigy doesn’t it? I’m talking about John Lynch, a safety who played for a number of years with Kiffin in his Tampa 2. Maybe Kiffin has looked into what type of player he could be and found out that Johnson fits nicely into his scheme.
Of course this is all a guess on what the Cowboys plan to do and Johnson does have weaknesses, staying healthy for one, but there is potential for Johnson to be a big contributor for the Dallas defense next season. We probably have to wait until March and April to find out what the Cowboys think about their current safeties but I think Johnson can be a real player for Dallas.
The Cowboys don’t have enough money to find a great safety in free agency and they have too many other pressing needs at other positions, so Matt Johnson maybe the best answer the Cowboys have on the roster.
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