With all of the cold weather blowing through the nation, it can be expected that doctor’s visits are on the rise. Cold and flu like symptoms are running rampant. Clear thoughts are an issue at times and that is the case of the recent article posted by the Dallas Cowboys Star magazine, the official team magazine.
In the latest edition, the author of the article gives grades to various players and then towards the end of the article gives a grade as a unit. Some of the grades are debatable especially giving the defensive backfield a “C+”. This unit finished 30th in the NFL for passing. Their interceptions leader missed 5 games during the season and still mustered 4 interceptions with 1 touchdown. And he wasn’t even a corner or safety but a linebacker. Sean Lee was often injured but came through when he did play. What about the players that missed less time than Lee and were considered apart of the defensive backfield? What is their excuse? A “C+” for a unit that allowed more 400+ passing games in NFL history, over 4,500 yards in passing, had started the season with 6 take-away’s to finish the season ranked in the middle with 15 interceptions and 12 fumbles for the year, is absolutely too generous of a grade.
The defensive line was given a “B-“ and rightfully so, they went through so many lineman in a one season period, you would almost think they would start a reality series called, “Being a Dallas Defensive Lineman” with an advertising line of “Could you survive?”
As far as the passing defense they had their injuries as well. Brandon Carr probably had the best season as far as the DB’s are concerned with injuries. His play on the field was disappointing though as he seemed more concerned with stripping the ball then actually tackling the players with it. Many players are measured by the size of the contract and Carr was an average player with an elite contract. Fans should be disappointed.
Morris Claiborne was decimated with injuries throughout the season and could only squeeze in 2 interceptions for the season. Orlando Scandrick was hands down the best corner the team had but he had also led the team in penalties and missed tackles.
Rookie B.W. Webb showed some promise but still had a hard time in man-to-man coverage didn’t contribute very much on special teams. He will grow in time. Jeff Heath was a surprise free agent rookie who was all over the place on special teams and was a starter at safety for nine games due to injuries hurting the unit. Overall, he did fairly well with having forced two turnovers and scoring a touchdown. He will be a player to watch for the future along with Webb. And rounding out the rookies, J.J. Wilcox was hit with the injury bug that claimed his knee. He was doing pretty well with solid games against the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. He struggled as he attempted to come back from his injuries. With rest and time to heal, he will be playing for a starting spot in training camp.
The brightest star of the unit was Barry Church. Church led the team in tackles and made players from opposing squads really think twice about going up the middle. He has slowly become a player known for his physical play. Despite forcing three fumbles, he was snubbed for the Pro Bowl. He is a deserving player after all of the hits he delivered this season. The fact that the entire unit played so poorly probably had in impact on him getting votes for the Pro Bowl.
Individually the unit played well, as a team they played horribly. A “C+” in one man’s book is a “D” in mine. It is hard to blame the coaching staff but it seemed like Monte Kiffin made little effort in adjusting the game plan during the course of the game to help these young players be successful. The Cowboys defensive backfield was a one game wonder after aiding in 6 turnovers the first game of the season against the New York Giants. After that, it seemed to struggle and provide for an encore performance.
This will be a long off-season as the draft comes around in May, player evaluations are currently going on and it is hard to grade on a curve.
Part of the problem in Dallas was obviously injuries and most of those were hamstring injuries. That fault falls within the organizations conditioning coach and conditioning program. As a former trainer, I would challenge that aspect as they were more hamstring injuries seen this year than ever before. The Cincinnati Bengals had more hamstring injuries and they still managed a playoff spot.
Either way, grading the team this year based on an 8-8 season needs to be strict. Fans are tired of hearing about the “process”. Head coach Jason Garrett has said on various times, “It’s a process”. Here is the thing Coach Garrett, your process is netting porous results and mediocre grades for a team that is expected to be an elite team with all of the talent on the roster. Take your process and fix it now that you have been giving another reprieve from being fired, again.