Cowboys Conversation: Defensive Backs & Camp Impressions

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Jul 23, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys players stretch during training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports.

Don and Meredith are longtime friends and lifelong Dallas Cowboys fans whose bond was solidified when swapping stories about growing up in the hostile territory of New Jersey and facing the same while living in New York City the past ten years. More than anything, they love debating everything Dallas Cowboys with each other. Their posts here at the Landry Hat are a running conversation about America’s Team.

Meredith: While it’s less than a week into training camp and I am trying to temper my enthusiasm, I can’t help but want to quit my day job so I can read about everything that is happening or just fly to Oxnard and watch. Unfortunately, I live in the real world and can’t do that, so I am settling for keeping up to date via twitter and the reports from those who are out there.

Now, I, like so many other Cowboys fans, have been slightly obsessed with the decisions we will have to make in the coming weeks surrounding our linebackers. Besides Sean Lee’s injury and the decisions regarding personnel made in response, there has been little to no news in the past couple of months so I feel like it’s understandable (aka I am giving myself a mulligan here). But now that camp has started, I want to focus a little bit more on a place where it’s imperative to see some improvement — our defensive backs. Morris Claiborne has thrown down the gauntlet and is setting lofty expectations for himself and his teammates:

“We were last in the league in defense and we’re trying to be No. 1,” he said. “That’s our goal. We’re not shying away from it.”

I like this attitude, I like this enthusiasm and I like the effort we have seen from him thus far.

Don: I’ll settle for us getting be the 22nd ranked defense.

Meredith: You are such a wet blanket.

Don: I know, I’m just trying to manage expectations – I think I might be holding this season too close. But you’re right; we do need to see a lot of improvement here. The lackluster performance we saw from our d-backs last year obviously wasn’t entirely their fault, but I like the accountability being taken and the shift in Mo’s attitude is a good sign. He seems more ready for camp and this is the first full, healthy offseason for Mo which means health factors aren’t getting in the way of his talent for the first time. Confidence is so critical for high-wire positions like corner, where everyone can see your mistakes. He has the swagger you want to see from an elite corner. I loved him yelling “Bring Dez over here” after shutting down Terrance Williams in one on one drills.

Meredith: If Mo can capitalize on his potential and because I think Orlando Scandrick has been the best corner on the team for some time, I could see Brandon Carr getting bumped down to being the #3 corner. Now, one of the questions then becomes what impact a decision like that has on Brandon Carr. The coaches have insisted it really doesn’t matter much because they are effectively all starters given that sixty percent of the time their scheme consists of three corners on the field. But, like you said, ego matters in this position and I wonder how he will react to being a $50 million player coming off the bench. Coupled with being out of camp due to family issues, I think Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli need to take great care towards ensuring he feels that their confidence in him is resolute. Well, that and making sure they are using strategies that maximize their talents.

Don: It’s a pretty established fact that Marinelli is going to play more press man coverage, playing to the strengths of strong, physical corners Claiborne and Carr, who struggled in zone. But, this is where I get worried – it seems like our timing for making this change could not be worse:

“As explained by FOX’s Mike Pereira on Twitter, a former NFL V.P. of officiating, illegal contact and defensive holding will be a point of emphasis in 2014.

“As a practical matter, it’s the Legion of Boom rule.  In 2013, the Seahawks brazenly committed illegal contact and holding, knowing that, if illegal contact happens on every play, the officials won’t throw a flag on every play.  In an intriguing segment that aired on NBCSN’s NFL Turning Point, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman was displaying to a teammate on the practice field techniques for concealing illegal contact.

“This year, the officials may be far more inclined to throw flags.”

Meredith: Ugh. “Legion of Boom Rule.” I bet they mean business here. The first iteration of this came out of the Patriots mauling Colts receivers in the 2003 AFC title Game and forcing Peyton Manning into four picks. The league subsequently vowed to crack down on illegal contact. The next season holding and illegal contact calls began to skyrocket – defensive backs had little leeway to put their hands on receivers – and thus began the era of explosive passing game numbers we are now in. I mean Peyton threw for 49 TDs in 2004 – and it’s conceivable that we could see a repeat of that pattern this season. Scoring = excitement = money for the league. As is fairly typical when there is a shift in philosophy and to establish a new baseline, this could mean that the illegal contact crackdown will be swift and harsh in the first year.

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