Jerry Jones promised change, and change you shall receive. The general sentiment around Jerry Jones’ impassioned “change” speech was a big old “Yeah Right” from Cowboys fans in general. But now we will have seen a huge amount of turnover in the coaching staff by the time all is said and done. The Cowboys have a new Defensive Coordinator, with presumably a made-over position coach staff, a new Special Teams Coordinator, and — if we are to believe the rumors out of Valley Ranch – A new playcaller on offense. That is a lot of change considering we haven’t even begun the personnel piece of things.
Random thoughts about the defensive system switch
- I think too much is being made over DeMarcus Ware’s ability to play 4-3 end with his “hand in the dirt”. He did it in college and earned enough accolades to be drafted 11th overall in the 2005 draft. Ultimately, I think Ware needs to add 10-15 lbs to make the most of the transition, but there are plenty of 4-3 defensive ends in the league that are his current size. It is true that he’s older and had nagging injuries that limited his effectiveness in the 2nd half of the season. This may or may not cause concern for his durability when he is drawing more contact at the line of scrimmage, but from a pure performance standpoint, he should be just fine.
- Monte Kiffin… worst or best hire ever? For me, I’m in the middle. Sure, I have concerns about his age, but the reports I’ve heard are that he is as spry and engaged as he’s ever been. At a soon-to-be 73 years old, one is simply being unrealistic to expect anything more than a couple of years as defensive coordinator out of him. The hope is that he’s going to bring in a young assistant that he can turn the defense over to after he has (crossing fingers) successfully implemented the ‘Tampa 2’ defense in Dallas.
- Is the Tampa 2 antiquated and ineffective? If the Tampa 2 doesn’t work anymore, I wish someone would have told Seattle or Chicago last season. It’s true that Chicago faded in the second half of the season, but I think that’s more about regression to the mean than it is a knock on a whole defensive system.
- Can it stop RGIII and Chip Kelly’s offense? We’ll have to see how it plays out. RGIII isn’t going to be himself next season, unless he’s made of the same super-human genetics that fuels Adrian Peterson. It is an interesting question though, as Kiffin had trouble implementing his famed defense at USC, with his most notable failures against the break-neck pace of the Kelly-led Oregon offense. It is true, Oregon has put up ridiculous offensive numbers against the Kiffin-led USC defense, but I’m not sure that is an apples-to-apples comparison. This will be Kelly’s first time coaching in the NFL and, while there is talent on the Philadelphia squad, this team absolutely folded last season. Let’s wait to see how this plays out before we start anointing or condemning any hires.
* Monte Kiffin did not create the Tampa 2 defense, but he had a huge part in its popularization/modernization. Tony Dungy credits the Pittsburgh Steelers “Steel Curtain” defense of the 70’s for being the blue print for the Tampa 2.
Random thoughts on the NFL Draft
- I really do not get the Cowboys fan that calls for a quarterback, safety, running back, et al in the first round. This team was 8-8 and a solid game away from the division title, caused by injuries on the defense and the poor play of…
- The offensive line. I saw comments today on a couple of the mock drafts that are out, scoffing at the notion that the Cowboys should draft a guard in the first round, completely ignoring the fact that this team’s inability to evaluate and draft offensive line talent in the mid rounds is exactly why they’re in this position in the first place. Take the sure thing – or as close as they come in the NFL. This season’s change has to start in the trenches. If the Cowboys don’t come away with a starting offensive lineman in the first two rounds, I will consider this draft a failure.
- For my money, I think the Cowboys need to go offensive and defensive line with their first two picks. The defensive line is aging and beat up, and they would have needed to bring in a guy even if they had stuck with the 3-4. The imminent change to 4-3 makes it all the more vital, particularly with the uncertainty of Anthony Spencer’s return. Despite a couple of misguided blog posts I’ve read, he would be in the running as a defensive end, not a linebacker in the 4-3. With the Cowboys being a projected $18-25 million over the cap, as of this writing, I’m not sure how much free cash the Cowboys will have for free agents. There is some contract magic they can do with a couple of players, not to mention the inevitable extension of Romo’s contact, to help free up some room, but it should still be at a premium. After Spencer’s breakout year, his price tag may have risen to the point of excluding the possibility of staying in Dallas.
- Once they inject a little youth and talent into the ‘fensive lines’, I am relatively open to looking at other positions, but I think the 3rd round would be an excellent opportunity to add another running back to share the load with Murray, but also as an insurance policy for what is fast becoming a tendency for fragility on his part. I still believe in Murray’s talent, but I am also starting to buy into what seems like a near certainty that he will miss games every season. I would love to be wrong about that, by the way.
- Another area of improvement that is popular with fans is drafting a young safety. I tend to agree that adding depth here is important, but I think the need to have an immediate starter at safety is overstated, because I think the return of Barry Church goes a long way to upgrading this unit. All the same, I would completely understand if the Cowboys took a safety in the 3-5 round range.
- The interception throwing elephant in every Cowboy fan’s room… quarterback. I, again, will go on the record as saying that Tony Romo is not the problem with this team. Is he Tom Brady? No, not quite, but I don’t think he’s as far off as some might think. The Cowboys can win with Tony Romo – he just needs a little help. Now having said that, I think it’s probably time to pick a guy with upside to start grooming as his replacement – hopefully more successfully than with the McGee experiment. Do you buy into the growing trend of successful read option guys or do you go with a traditional pocket passer? I honestly could argue either side of that, but the kind of guys with upside they are going to get in the middle rounds are going to be projects, so don’t expect RGIII or Kaepernick right away.
- In the final rounds, I think you try to a gamble on some high upside guys. Maybe you take more linemen here, or maybe you get a guy with some character questions and try to make a player out of him. All of the elite talent will be off the board, but the hope is that you hit on one of the final picks to make your draft a success – and make no mistake, the Cowboys simply must hit in this draft.