How Can Rob Ryan Fix the Dallas Cowboys' Secondary?

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Marney Robinson: The secondary has struggled since the injury to Mike Jenkins.  His return next week against the Cardinals should help, but most of what I’m seeing in the secondary are mental mistakes:  coverage breakdowns, blown assignments, and playing too softly.  I think Rob Ryan needs to tell his guys to play more physical with opposing receivers.  In Ryan’s style of defense, the blitz absolutely must get to the quarterback.  If it doesn’t, as we’ve seen, it leaves the secondary exposed in coverage.  Teams have been doing a good job of picking up the blitz, which is another problem in itself.  And I’m a little worried that Orlando Scandrick may not be the player the Cowboys thought he was when they signed him to an extension.

C. Joseph Wright: To answer your question directly: if we assume that the players are playing close to the best of their abilities, there are two ways to improve the pass coverage.  1.  Give the opposing QB’s less time to throw.  2. Confuse QB’s by utilizing strange formations and disguised coverages.

I don’t believe that the defense  has played nearly as poorly as some people think. In the Washington game, the lack of a consistent pass-rush was as much to blame for Grossman’s success as the secondary. The pass-rush was better against Miami, but I still think the DB’s were asked to cover receivers for more than 3 seconds on several occasions; it is very difficult, nearly impossible, for any secondary to cover receivers for that long. The defense defended a lot of short fields (less than 60 yards) against a hot Dolphins offense and they still only surrendered 1 TD.

The biggest problem with the secondary is their collective and individual lack of size. They seem to be able to contain smaller WR’s like Wes Welker, but they have trouble with bigger, more physical receivers like Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson. There is nothing Rob Ryan can do to make up for the physical mismatches. Hopefully Mike Jenkins, the most physical of all the corners, is healthy enough to play against Larry Fitzgerald.

I think most of the secondary are at least above-average for their place on the depth chart.  Even Alan Ball.  Really, what do you want from a 5th CB?  Before you answer,  two words: Salary Cap.

As for the penalties, you have to differentiate between mental errors and physical errors. Penalties like holding and pass interference will happen; sometimes those are even smart penalties. The mental errors should be fixed by focus and concentration. If it is any consolation to you, Garrett has said several time this week that eliminating the penalties has been a focal point in practice this week.

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