Pathetic, gross, disgusting, unbelievable, blasphemous, sick and unholy are just some of the words to describe the 2013 Dallas Cowboys defense. What the football world saw on Monday Night Football was a comedy and train wreck all wrapped into one.
All year we have seen elite quarterbacks torch this defense, but when perennial back-up Bears quarterback Josh McCown light up the Cowboys for 348 and four touchdowns and leading the Bears to score on eight possessions is flat out ridiculous. This time you couldn’t even blame quarterback Tony Romo for screwing it up, the game was already out of contention before he could respond. How could a team that featured some of the greatest defensive teams in the history of the NFL, resort to becoming the team that features one of the worse defenses in the history of the game? There are multiple answers to that question.
One of easy answers is that this defense has been hurt all year and did not get a chance to work it’s magic because of all the off-the –street free agents that have played for them, especially on the defensive line. When your projected starting defensive line is Demarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Jay Ratliff, and Anthony Spencer, there is hope that the new scheme was going to work. That lineup was never seen as injuries took Spencer, Ratliff and backups like Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass. Guys like Nick Hayden, George Selvie and a bunch of no-names are taking important snaps for this team. That is never a good thing. Also, the hamstring bug has moved from receiver Miles Austin and has infected about half the defense. Someone in the front office better look over to the strength and condition coach for some clarification on why hamstrings are becoming a huge problem for this team.
Another reason seems to be with the scheme itself and how it is run by defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Aside from the obvious he has gotten too old, I think the problem simply lies in with the personnel not matching the scheme. This team maybe fit for a 4-3, but the zone coverage doesn’t fit the secondary well. All three of the main cornerbacks are made for man coverage and thrive in that role. Also, since the defensive line has gotten weaker, pressure on the quarterback has vanished and therefore makes it easier for someone to read a zone. The pressure is supposed to help create the turnovers by the secondary, but without it the offenses are just being patient and finding the open receivers.
Another mismatch is outside linebacker Bruce Carter, who was a gem last year before he got hurt. With his potential playmaking ability, the Cowboys thought he would be perfect in playing the weak side linebacker, who is called upon to stop the running backs using his speed. This year Carter has been a liability in coverage and the run game and some coaches are perplexed at what happened to this star player.
Another big bust has been last year’s top draft pick, cornerback Morris Claiborne. When he has been on the field, he is nothing like we were hoping. This guy plays with no confidence and gets beat for big plays constantly. Add in the fact he is hurt all the time; you have a recipe for another first-round bust.
The player that I am surprised has fallen from grace is Demarcus Ware. In training camp, he looked healthy, younger, and seemed poised for a breakout year. Sadly, he has been injured and when healthy has played nothing like the all-pro defensive end we are accustomed to seeing. He needs to get back on track fast or the Cowboys might have to move on from a player that has clearly regressed.
How to fix the terrible defense with just three games left in the year? There is no solution but to hope they play better individually and force some stops. The defense is too injured and the scheme isn’t changing any time soon. There has to be influx of better talent on this defense for it to be completive again. The team will have to rely on its offense to do the work if they are to have any chance of making the playoffs. One thing is for sure, no one on the defensive staff is safe next year, regardless if they make the playoffs or not.