The Dallas Cowboys defense. I know, I know, this topic has been shoved down your throats like broccoli to a child. Just hear me out and let me throw my two cents in on the matter. It is, after all, the main focus on this team right now. Or should I say the main detriment to the team.
We all know how historically bad this defense was last year. I still wake up in a cold sweat dreaming about that abysmal performance against the New Orleans Saints when they gave up an all time record 40 first downs. I told myself that night 40 is the new 20. So maybe it wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be in the media? Or that Monday night performance against the Chicago Bears. Or the game against the Detroit Lions when they allowed wide receiver Calvin Johnson to catch 14 passes for 329 yards. Okay, you get the point. Here is why I think they can only go up from here.
First off, I actually like the approach the team is taking with the defensive line. With all the influx of new players along the D-line, they will be able to come at teams in waves. There may not be a dominant force on the defensive line, but I think they have put together a solid rotation of guys. Look at it this way, players that were starters last year will be on the second line of defense this year.
Players like defensive end George Selvie (seven sacks in 2013) and defensive tackle Nick Hayden gave solid performances as starters and should only excel when coming in as reserves against worn down offensive lines. The team also gets to see if defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford is as good as they thought before last year’s training camp.
Another reason the defense will improve is I believe rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will give this team more production than his predecessor. Yes he will out produce former Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Not the Ware who was getting 20 sacks in 2007, but the one from last year who was non-existent. It pains me to say that for one of the all time great Cowboys players. He simply has been a non-factor the last year and a half so any production from the new DeMarcus will be an improvement.
Also, linebacker Sean Lee doing us all a favor and getting the injury out of the way so the team could prepare for his replacement will help the defense be better. Instead of being blindsided with another midseason Lee injury, the Cowboys are better equipped to sustain his loss now. Currently, it seems the Cowboys will stay in house to replace him and hope either rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens or returning linebacker DeVonte Holloman will step up and be the man. Obviously, neither of them are likely to play to the caliber of Lee, but they both certainly have ample time to prepare themselves for the role.
The biggest reason this defense will improve in 2014 is the drafting of offensive lineman Zach Martin. I think this is one of the better draft picks owner/general manager Jerry Jones has made in recent years. I’m a stout believer you can never have a good enough offensive line. I believe this is the very reason why the San Francisco 49ers have been one of the premier teams the last few years. In 2007, they drafted offensive lineman Joe Staley and followed that up by drafting offensive tackle Anthony Davis and offensive guard Mike Iupati in 2010. They have been a dominant team ever since.
In drafting Martin to go along with offensive tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick, the Cowboys can have just as dominant an offensive line. An offense that can control the line of scrimmage and wear down opposing teams can dominate time of possession and keep the defense off the field. Let me be Mr. Obvious here and say a defense that isn’t on the field is a defense that can’t give up an historically high amount of yards or record setting amount of first downs.
If none of that works to persuade you the Cowboys defense will improve in 2014 then, at the very least, take this away from the article. It cannot get any worse than it was in 2013. We can only go up!