Cowboys Debate: Is it the Defensive Players or the System?

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Dec 9, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) is tackled by the Dallas Cowboys defense during the third quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

I really wanted to write about how much fun my buddies & I had in the city of Chicago for our football mancation. Instead the Cowboys defense created a debate that I’d like to address with this article. Are the defensive problems of the Cowboys due to a lack of talented personnel or a bad coaching system?

My position has been that it’s a bad coaching system, but it’s probably a mixture of both. Preseason, reports mentioned that our defense would mirror the defense of the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks are leading the NFL in total defense while the Cowboys rank dead last. It’s not close in any statistical category.

The differences on film are easy to spot. The Seahawks’ defense forces their opponent hand, while the Cowboys’ defense adjusts to their opponent. It’s comparable to being out of position in poker, they’re unable to dictate the action. The Seahawks are a physical group defensively and the secondary challenges receivers at the line of scrimmage. Just engaging the receiver at the line disrupts the timing of routes and forces the quarterback to hold the ball. It provides the pass rush more time to get to the quarterback and disguises if the defense is playing man or zone coverage.

Read and react defenses have a place in the NFL, but the term is mostly used when discussing the play of the defensive line and linebackers. The Cowboys secondary is reactionary and they react a second too late. It looks like press coverage, but our defenders consistently backpedal at the snap. Receivers are allowed to run to their spot and catch the ball. Opponents never get touched within the first five yards and that’s a scheme/coach problem.

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  • SmartThinking

    You won’t throw in the towel prematurely? Why not? The Cowboys did Monday night.

    According to your premise, this debate requires an either/or answer. My position is it’s both.

    This defensive team cannot physically compete against even middle level teams in this league with the players it has currently on its roster. To complicate matters even worse, these same defensive players are out-performed by their opponents because the defensive scheme they play in is old, outmoded, doesn’t fit our personnel, and has been out-coached by nearly every team in the league for years now.

    That’s the long and short of it. And it won’t change until the entire coaching staff is removed AND this team replaces nearly every player on their defensive roster with bigger, faster, taller, younger, more athletic, smarter players who have the will to win coached into them from the first day they join this team.

    • jayhwk01

      The scheme works fine. Dallas does not have the horses to pull it off. But neither the scheme, the players, or the coaches address the real problem and that is Jerry Jones. As long as he continues to be GM, Draft tyrant, and owner Dallas will be a 8-8 9-7 team regardless of talent or coaching.

    • Robert H. Carroll

      When the Bears seemingly put the game out of reach. I don’t think the Cowboys quit when they continued to run the ball. I felt they were treating it like a live scrimmage at that point and were running the ball to get game film to perfect running plays this season. If the Cowboys and Bears both win their divisions, it’s possible to meet in the playoffs and that game film will be important. Analyzing film will make the rushing offense better. Don’t be surprised if we run a lot, especially in Washington.

      Removing the entire coaching staff seems to be a bit extreme. Drafting talent is a hit or miss process. How much younger do you want our secondary? We have 2 rookies, Carr & Scandrick.

  • Earl Robertson

    Heath and Webb is one of the main reason the defense sucks so bad. So what coach or owner is letting those 2 on the field it is their fault