The Cowboys were awful on defense last year — historically bad, in fact. You could make a pretty strong argument that they were the worst defense in franchise history. Yesterday, they re-signed Gerald Sensabaugh, ensuring that they will return 10 of 11 starters from last years’ dismal unit. Much is being made over this and rightfully so. The defense ineptitude was tough to watch and the single biggest factor in the fiasco that was the 2010 season. However, it’s important to remember that this exact same group was a borderline dominant defense in 2009 and there is no reason why they can’t get back to that level.
Last year, Wade Phillips completely lost his team some time during training camp, and, not surprisingly, the unit that he specifically coached was a big problem. But, they still have talent. DeMarcus Ware might be the best defensive player on the planet. Even the biggest Cowboy hater will concede that. Jay Ratliff is an absolute beast. Bradie James still has something to give and Sean Lee is a player on the rise. This defense has the potential to be at least decent again. Last year, they went soft under Phillips. They need a culture change. They need to play with a big ole’ chip on their shoulders. And, Rob Ryan seems like he is just the guy to help them get their swagger back.
Obviously, much is being made of the shot Ryan recently fired across the Eagles’ bow. We all better get used to Rob being a topic of conversation. If you thought he caused a stir when he was coaching other teams, just wait until he starts talking smack the week of a big NFC East game. ESPN might just move headquarters to Valley Ranch. But, I’m all right with Ryan’s extreme confidence. In fact, I embrace it. This defense needs someone that believes in them. Guys like Newman, Jenkins, Sensabaugh, and Ball have been kicked around all off-season by the relentless Dallas media. But, now their coach is instilling a take-nothing-from-nobody mentality and the defense seems to be responding.
Last year, Ryan’s defense in Cleveland ranked in the top half of the league for fewest points given up per game. The Cowboys, of course, where second to last. However, the Cowboys are a much more talented defense than Cleveland. And, if the ‘Boys sign Elam, they’ll have taken two of the Browns’ better defenders from last year. If Ryan was able to draw a decent performance from the group he had in Cleveland, he should be able to do wonders with the Cowboys — even if they don’t sign another safety.
There is a lot of media doom and gloom surrounding this team right now, but guys like Jean-Jacques are over exaggerating the Cowboys’ problems. To say that they’re an untalented team and poorly run organization isn’t exactly true — at least not lately. After all, they’ve won the NFC East in two of the last four seasons and they are just one season removed from winning the organization’s first playoff game in over a decade. It’s remarkable how quickly these things are forgotten.
Earlier today, Jason Garrett was asked to comment on Rob Ryan’s statements. While Garrett didn’t endorse what Ryan said outright, he seemed to like it. He spoke of instilling confidence and finding some swagger. If that’s what he wants, he hired the right man to run his defense.
Ryan reminds me a bit of Mike Leach. They’re both insane in a good way. They think outside of the box and could care less what anyone thinks about their methods. They’re stubborn as hell and have no problem speaking exactly what’s on their mind. At Tech, Leach took players that were spurned by Texas and A&M and turned them into a group of havoc-wreaking pirates. Under Leach, the Red Raiders were always confidently ruthless.
Leach’s “swing your sword” message is a great one for the Cowboys. They need to play like pirates, launching ferocious, merciless, and, most of all, relentless attacks opposing offenses. The good news for us is that Rob Ryan definitely has a little pirate in him and he’s got his sights set on a little bounty that the Eagles think they’ve already won.