Which Dallas Cowboys Fit in a 4-3 Defense?

By Jimmy Johnson
Monte Kiffin
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Underachieving talent might be the best way to describe the Dallas Cowboys defense players.

Not even the additions of two man-cover cornerbacks – Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne – to an already stout and vicious front sevent could help solve the problems Dallas has had on defense.

The Cowboys have run a 3-4 defense since the hiring of former head coach Bill Parcells back in the early 2000s, but now they’ll be switching to a 4-3 under the direction of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer coordinator Monte Kiffin.

The decision will entail a position change for one of Dallas’ most important defensive players – outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware. Ware dabbled in college as both a stand-up and one-hand-down-defensive-end as a Troy T-roy during his collegiate career. A similar pass-rushing role could be in store for Anthony Spencer, but since the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on him for this year, Spencer might not be retained since he fits better as a 3-4 rusher and would want a new long-term contract.

It’ll be interesting to see what the Cowboys do with defensive Jay Ratliff. A long time linchpin to the interior of their 3-4 defense, Ratliff is starting to get older, so he could end up being a salary cap casualty to clear space. After starting 64-straight regular season games for four-straight seasons, injuries finally hit Ratliff this season, as he played in six games.  Chicago Bears‘ free agent defensive tackle Henry Melton could be a target for Kiffin and the Cowboys. Melton is an ideal three-technique that would bring an inside pass-rush that Kiffin’s defense is built around. The Buccaneers thrived with longtime tackle Warren Sapp as their three technique during their run in the NFC in the early 2000s.

Don’t be surprised to see the Cowboys target a few other Bears – or players who play in a similar scheme like a 4-3 cover-2. Brian Urlacher‘s status with Chicago is still uncertain, and Kiffin might try to lobby for Jones to take a chance on a linebacker that’s made a career off his speed – even though it’s been noticeably down a few notches the last several seasons.

Bruce Carter‘s speed will be on full display in a 4-3 defense. While his pass defense will have to improve, Carter has the athletic ability to cover and roam in Kiffin’s defense – which is predicated on speed. Sean Lee should also get a shot at one of the three linebacker spots in Kiffin’s defense.

It’s debatable if a defensive chance was necessary for the Cowboys to go from a team that has high expectations each year and fail at reaching them. A scheme chance will cost some players their jobs in Dallas – especially at defensive tackle and end where thicker and more run-stuffing oriented players like Sean Lissemore, Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman might have to look elsewhere.

Veterans like Ware, Spencer and Ratliff should transition well into their new positions. But Jerry Jones will have to open up his wallet to nab some pass-coverage friendly linebackers.

If there’s one advantage Dallas has with a scheme change, it is having an owner/general manager like Jones who is willing to spend an X amount of dollars to obtain the players necessary for this scheme to work.

As of late, though,  Jones’ big transactions haven’t produced wins, but rather more disappointment in Dallas.

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