The 2012 season has gotten off to a rocky start for the Dallas Cowboys as a team, with a 2-3 record. The poor start cannot be traced to the play on the defensive side of the ball. The revamped defense is at the top of most of the important statistical data and individual players have put up some prolific starts to the 2012 campaign. The Dallas defense is the one bright spot in an otherwise cloudy start to the season.
In 2011 the Cowboys defense was blamed for most of the collapse down the stretch. To fix the situation the Cowboys brought in new talent through free agency by acquiring corner back Brandon Carr. They also made improvements by moving up the draft board to gran corner back Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys also made addition through subtraction in the offseason by getting rid of aging linebackers Bradie James and Keith Brooking. They used their younger talent in Bruce Carter and Sean Lee to fill the holes in the linebacker corps.
The changes have paid off in the early part of the 2012 season. The Cowboys are second in the NFL in total yards per game and passing yards per game. The Cowboys have done a great job in shutting down opposing offenses. They lead the league in three and outs, and are coming off a game in Baltimore where they held the Ravens to just six offensive plays in the third quarter, resulting in two punts.
The breakout player for the Cowboys this season is inside linebacker Sean Lee. Lee has 52 tackles in just five games and is the leader in tackles per game. Another standout player has been DeMarcus Ware. In the season opener Ware produced his 100th sack of his career and has continued from there with six total sacks on the year.
Even though the Cowboys have put up great statistical numbers on pass defense, the one area of improvement is forcing turnovers. They have only one interception and that was by Sean Lee. The defensive backs are making plays and tackling well, but have not gotten their hands on the football. The pressure on the quarterback is there and the more pressure that gets to the opposing quarterback will lead to more opportunities for the defensive backs to make turnovers.
Rob Ryan was brought in to lead the defense under offensive head coach Jason Garrett. The first year was a flop, but now that the pieces are in place to run his defensive scheme. The Cowboys have responded with great statistical defensive numbers. The Ryan name is synonymous with pressure and that is no different in Dallas. The Cowboys have nine sacks through five games.
As if the defense needed anymore help, they are getting Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jay Ratliff back off injury. Ratliff is a big piece of the Cowboys defense as he is a beast in the rushing defense and sucks up blockers, freeing up pass rushers to get after the quarterback.
In game number six, the Cowboys travel to Carolina to take on the Panthers. The Panthers have been a struggling offensive team in 2012. They have not lived up to the numbers they put up in 2011. The Panthers have playmakers on offense and it all starts with their quarterback Cam Newton. The Cowboys will have to shut down Newton’s running ability by keeping him corralled in the pocket. They need to wrap him up and not allow Newton to extend plays or gain yards with his legs.
The 2-3 start has been painful for Cowboys fans, but none of that pain has come from the defensive side of the ball. The new additions to the secondary have produced the second best pass defense in the NFL. Sean lee and DeMarcus Ware have put together great seasons and are playing at the top of their games. Rob Ryan has gotten the players he needs to implement his system. Jay Ratliff’s return to the lineup will be a big boost to an already stout defense. Against the Carolina panthers on Sunday, the defense will have to shut down one of the most exciting players in the NFL today and be the catalyst for a Cowboys win to get back to an even record.