Thinking back to last year, there aren’t very many positives I can think of when it comes to Rob Ryan‘s defense. For me, Ryan had the physical appearance of a tough-as-nails coordinator. That may be the case, but it did not translate onto the field.
The Dallas Cowboys defense set a franchise record last year for yards allowed which is not something to be proud of. Now granted, by the end of the season the Boys were missing more than half of their starters and DeMarcus Ware only had one arm. Still, this is the NFL and you have to make-do with the hand your dealt. This is America’s Team; expectations are always unrealistically high.
Another thing was the pure lack of takeaways, another low for the Cowboys. Have they had worse? Yes. But bottom of the barrel in NFL isn’t pretty. 16 takeaways total last year averages out to one per game; once again, not pretty.
The infamous Jerry Jones fired the hot-headed Ryan last year and brought in the 4-3 “Tampa 2″ creator, Monte Kiffin. Kiffin is best known for his days with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hall of Famer Warren Sapp could probably thank his success to the scheme he created. At 73, Kiffin has shown no signs of slowing down and is even seen on the practice field running around with the players shouting words of encouragement, even the occasional butt-chewing.
If you do your research and see what the Cowboys’ players have said about him, you’ll find that there is a common ground with the term “spunky”.
The biggest thing that Kiffin preaches is pursuit with everyone pursuing to the ball in a swarm effect. If you’ve been keeping a close eye on the preseason, you’ll notice that regardless of string, position or what side of the field they’re on, those Boys are swarmin’, even the ones that obviously aren’t making the team.
Another big thing that Kiffin preaches is turnovers. This adds to pursuing to the ball. It’s a very well designed mix. The biggest part, in my opinion is Ware going back to his original college position at DE. This brings two things to the table. It lets Ware do what he loves most, and that’s stuffing the run and destroying the QB. Creating havoc in the box to put it simply. It also keeps Ware out of coverage. Let the linebackers like Sean Lee and Bruce Carter handle that. No. 94 is capable of a lot of things, but lining him up at OLB against another team’s No. 3 receiver really isn’t the best idea. If you go back and look at the history of Ware in coverage, it’s just not his thing. That’s fine, it’s not what he’s built for.
During the first two preseason games we saw four turnovers. After the display we saw last year, I’d say that’s pretty promising. The things that the Cowboys defense is going to need to show the most is consistency and a bend but not break mentality.
I have to say that I was very impressed with the defensive performance against the Arizona Cardinals. The offense didn’t play as well; six turnovers is unacceptable regardless of whether its preseason or the Super Bowl. The defense, on the other hand, allowed zero touchdowns. The Cardinals started quite a few drives inside Cowboys territory and only walked away with 12 points. Yes, it was a loss, but the defense did its job in every aspect.
So, with all that being said, I think it’s a pretty easy assumption that the Cowboys defense is going to be different this year. With Ware having a hand on the ground for the first time in his NFL career, Lee healthy and playing like a mad man and Kiffin leading the charge, the Cowboys D is going to be something you’re not gonna want miss this year.