It is no secret that the Dallas Cowboys secondary is not qualified to play the zone defense. I’ve been barking about this all season.
Nick Eatman writes that the players have expressed interest in man-to-man coverage. Did I not just bring this up the other day?
The players have indicated they would like to play closer to the line of scrimmage at times, but so far the coaching staff is hoping to see some improvement in that area.
“We haven’t played man as well as I’d like to play,” head coach Wade Phillips said. “We say we have guys that can play man, but we haven’t played man that well.
Eatman goes on to say that the erratic man-to-man coverage was evident in the Redskins loss. I disagree. Almost the entire game the Cowboys cornerbacks played off the line of scrimmage in zone and gave receivers huge cushions. This is the problem! Third-down conversions become much easier to make when the corner gives a receiver a 10-yard cushion. Heck, 6 to 8-yard catches are easy on zone. This is not rocket science, yet Phillips, secondary coach Dave Campo and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart have yet to figure this out. It’s mindblowing.
So far this season, the Cowboys have allowed a total of seven pass plays of 10 yards or more. Last year through the first four games, when the Cowboys played the Giants, Dolphins, Rams and Bears, the defense allowed 11. Giving up seven, and only three of more than 30 yards, is just fine with the Cowboys.
“That’s very minimal. We’re probably leading the league,” Stewart said, referring to big plays against the defense. “We’re in the minimum in that. Definitely.”
Stewart added that playing close to the line of scrimmage isn’t just a coaches’ decision, and that the players can often cover a receiver how they want.
“A lot of times, he can. It’s on them,” Stewart said. “Now some of our zones, you can’t be bump and run on a zone. But sometimes, it’s at their discretion.”
That statistic is misleading. The Cowboys have given up huge pass plays in almost every game. DeSean Jackson had one. Santana Moss had one. And Braylon Edwards dropped one. Donald Driver had one. One of the best measures of a good defense is the third down defense statistics, and they’re not bad for the Cowboys.
What we will see is that in the two most challenging games for the Cowboys so far, those teams almost completed 50 percent of their third-down plays. The Browns were 33 percent, the Eagles were 41 percent, the Packers were 28 percent and the Redskins were 40 percent. (Meanwhile, the Cowboys are leading the league in third-down conversions).
The Cowboys need to play more man to man, and they need to have the cornerbacks closer to the line of scrimmage to have a chance to get that first interception of the year.