Nov 18, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff (90) celebrates making a tackle during the game against the Cleveland Browns at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Browns 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

More Concerning: Cowboys Defensive Line or Safeties?


The Dallas Cowboys go into the 2013 regular season with a newly acquired confidence on the offensive side of the ball. All-Pro guard Brian Waters was added to their ailing offensive line this week. His addition, along with the play of rookie first round pick center Travis Frederick, help bolster a line that was a reason why the Cowboys ranked second to last in rushing yards in 2012. With a more secure O-line, a more talented backfield, a stocked wide receiver corp, and a more involved quarterback in Tony Romo;  the new version of the Cowboys is more lethal than ever on the offensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the current state of their defense. And that’s mainly due to injuries.

August 17, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall (28) is brought down by Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Nick Hayden (96) during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

D0n’t get me wrong. The Cowboys defense looked great in the preseason. It appears the team’s transition to new defensive coordinator Monte’ Kiffin’s Cover 2, 4-3 defensive scheme has been much smoother than anyone could have predicted. The players seem to like the simpler scheme and are swarming to the ball with much greater intensity. But the Cowboys will be without starting defensive tackle Jay Ratliff for the first six games of the season. Also most likely missing from the defensive line when Dallas plays the New York Giants on Sunday will be last year’s first time Pro Bowler Anthony Spencer. Replacing these two pivotal players in our defense will be NFL journeymen DT Nick Hayden and DE George Selvie. And that’s not a knock on them as players. It’s simply difficult anytime you are trying to fill the shoes of Pro Bowl-caliber veterans.

Injury also had a hand in the current state of the Cowboys’ defensive safeties. Starting safeties Barry Church and Will Allen both have very little experience as starters. In his fourth season, Church was anointed a stater for the first time last year. He suffered an season-ending injury in Week Three. Allen is a ten year veteran, who played nine of those seasons as a back-up. Both men have a lot to prove. The Cowboys had hoped 2012 fourth round selection safety Matt Johnson would compete for a starting role. But injuries once again ended his season prematurely. And although this year’s third round selection, safety J.J. Wilcox, is a promising young talent, he still has a long way to go mentally before being able to unseat one of the starters.

So the question is: Which aspect of the Cowboys defense concerns you the most going into Week One? The Defensive Line or the Safeties? Leave your answer below.

Which aspect of the Cowboys defense concerns you the most going into Week One? The Defensive Line or the Safeties?

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Tags: Anthony Spencer Barry Church Dallas Cowboys Jay Ratliff Will Allen

  • BradAustin

    I understand the concerns with both no doubt. I do think most people will lose some of the rose-colored tint on their glasses once the see the actual shortcomings of Will Allen (limited talent) and J.J. Wilcox (youth and inexperience). Same with Hayden at DT. While we have hope for him and he looks decent, it will quickly be noticeable he is a limited player.

    Ineffective safety play in the NFC East can get you beat faster than one can blink. At the same time, if Church stays healthy, we know we have a solid player there. So the concerns shift to one safety spot. With Spencer, Ware, Hatcher, Lee, Carter in the front 7 we will be powerful up front. With Carr and Claiborne we are solid on the corners. Add in Church at one safety and we are locked in there.

    It’s been proven time and again in this league, if you have those other components, you can be just fine with a quality yet not dominant opposite safety. The majority of teams don’t have 2 top-end safeties. That being said, considering what surrounds them, Allen and Wilcox should have the luxury to be merely capable.

    As for the D-line…there is far too much uncertainty to not be highly concerned. Hayden, Selvie, and Rayford are all unknowns as to just what they can provide in the 2-deep. All 3 will be called upon to give large contributions. Once they face top opposition, I don’t expect them to excel, just merely hope they can hold their own while our stars around them play lights out.

    Spencer is an ongoing health concern and could go down at anytime once he returns. Ratliff is an unknown as to if he’ll even make it back this year. With a limping Spencer, missing Ratliff, and cooked Crawford…that’s 3 of the top 5 d-linemen either gone or a re-injury risk. I’d have to say this group by far exceeds the safety spot as a potential cause of meltdown. A lot of things will have to fall into place for the front 4 to dominate. Spencer must stay healthy, Hayden must be worthy, and Ratliff has to rejoin the rotation in Week 7. All are possible, being likely is another story.

  • Anonymous

    Please learn the difference between “then” and “than”. You got it wrong twice in this short article:

    “the new version of the Cowboys is more lethal then ever on the offensive side of the ball”

    “Monte’ Kiffin’s Cover 2, 4-3 defensive scheme has been much smoother then anyone could have predicted.”