Exclusive: Q&A With Former Cowboys Safety Darren Woodson

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Aug 17, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Rod Marinelli talks strategy with defensive end Landon Cohen (92) during fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Cowboys 12-7. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

DK: I thought Barry Church had a good year last year, but even though he played a lot of free safety, he’s more of a natural strong safety right?

DW: Correct.

[I asked him about the top two safety prospects in this year’s class, Louisville's Calvin Pryor and Alabama's HaHa Clinton-Dix, but he said that he isn’t working the Draft this year, so he hadn’t studied them. And even though he’d seen them play a little bit during the season, he didn’t feel as though he could really give a full and fair assessment of them, as players.]

DK: When you look at the defensive side, as a whole, obviously there were a lot of problems last year. Many of those attributed to Monte Kiffin. They did some shuffling around, and Rod Marinelli is taking over. Can you kind of go through, in layman’s terms for the fans, what are the differences in the defensive philosophies between those two? I know they’re similar, but how is the defense going to look this year, as opposed to last year?

DW: When you look at Marinelli, what he wants isn’t all that different [from Kiffin]. But being that defensive line coach, he wants to get back to that same deal that they had in Tampa, back in the days when they had Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice: great pass rushers, guys that got up field, penetrating and getting up the field and making plays behind the line of scrimmage. He wants an aggressive style of football player, quick at the point of attack. Someone like a Henry Melton, who they brought in. Someone like a [Jeremy] Mincey, who they brought in. Quick at the line of scrimmage: get up, attack, attack, attack.

But he’s also looking for depth at the position. I think that’s one of the things that the Cowboys, and especially Marinelli, are looking at. The way to build a defensive line is not to have four or five guys that you’re going to count on all the time. It is depth, depth, depth. Rotating guys in and out. You may not have that star guy, but you’re going to be so deep in your rotation, and guys are going to understand that the game plan is simplified.

Get up, attack. And if you’re tired, get off the field and bring in the next guy in the rotation. That’s the mentality that Marinelli has. And he wants guys with high motors. You don’t have to be the superstar guy, but he wants a high motor guy who is giving everything he has in him until he gets worn out. Then the next guy is going to come out and give you everything he has. Those are the guys he’s looking for.

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