Austin On Dallas: How Good Can The Cowboys Defense Be In 2012?

2 of 3


  • Key Players:

2009 – Bradie James / Keith Brooking / Bobbie Carpenter

2012 – Sean Lee / Dan Connor / Bruce Carter

  • Matchups:

2009 Bradie James  VS.  2012 Sean Lee

It’s not even necessary to get into too much detail on this one.  Bradie James was a tackling machine back in 2009 with 113.  Sean Lee was a terror in his first full year starting with 104.  James played one more game then Lee did which would bring their totals very close.

I can’t downgrade Bradie James as he was a stud in the middle back then, nor will I say Sean Lee won’t be an All-Pro player next year.  For now, I’d have to give this one a tie, which is saying alot for both guys and the strength of each team.

2009 Keith Brooking  VS.  2012 Bruce Carter / Dan Connor

In 2009, Brooking was still playing lights out football and recorded 106 tackles and 3 sacks.  He was definitely used often on the middle blitz which accounts for the sacks.  And while the number is somewhat high, the amount of times he was called to blitz and got stuffed was very high too.  The frequency of that middle blitz certainly led to those 3 sacks.

With Bruce Carter and Dan Connor nobody really knows who will emerge as the starter.  What we do know is both have different traits and should be very solid at what they do best.  And both will play often in 2012.  Dan Connor is a solid run stopper, he engages blocks well and gets off to make the tackle without giving much ground.

Bruce Carter is very rangy with blazing speed and quickness for his position.  Will he be able to engage blocks and free himself to make tackles fast?  We just don’t know yet.  However, these two guys combined do form a similar package to Keith Brooking.  Which again brings me to a tie at the position.

2009 Bobbie Carpenter  VS  2012 Bruce Carter (Nickel Backer)

Did anyone else just cringe when they first read the name Bobbie Carpenter in this article?  lol   Aside from the gift Romo threw him in the Detroit game last year, Bobbie Carpenter was inconsistent and mostly ineffective at nickel backer.  There’s no way he would have held onto that role if Dallas wouldn’t have foolishly shipped off Kevin Burnett that year.

By the way Cowboys fans, Kevin Burnett posted 95 tackles and 6 sacks with San Diego in 2010, and 105 tackles and 2.5 sacks for Miami in 2011.  Thanks Double J for shipping off a very solid starting caliber linebacker to keep ‘Barbie’, who compiled 165 total tackles and 3.5 sacks in his entire NFL career.

I’m going on record now saying the speed and range of Bruce Carter at the Nickel Backer will be a huge upgrade over both Keith Brooking and Bobby Carpenter, and will pay significant dividends for this defense.

  • ADVANTAGE: 2012 DEFENSE (sizable upgrade at Nickle Backer)


  • Key Players:

2009 – DeMarcus Ware / Anthony Spencer / Victor Butler

2012 – DeMarcus Ware / Anthony Spencer / Victor Butler

  • Matchups:

2009 DeMarcus Ware  VS.  2012 DeMarcus Ware

Who wants to face either of these beasts?  According to the numbers the current D-Ware is a much more daunting foe.  In 2009, Ware had his lowest sack total (11) since his rookie year.  While the tackles were very close in both years (57 to 58), in 2011 Ware racked up 8.5 more sacks for a total of 19.5.  That’s a huge increase in production.  It was also Ware’s second highest sack total of his career (missed by 1/2 sack).

Don’t look for Ware to slow down a bit after hearing his off-season quotes bragging on the new defense and his teammates.  This positive energy and new found confidence he’s developing in those around him will keep his motor churning full tilt.  The D-Ware of today is a more imposing player than three years prior.

2009 Anthony Spencer  VS.  2012 Anthony Spencer

In 2009, Spencer tallied 67 tackles and 6 sacks.  He missed the exact totals by one tackle in 2011, as he recorded 66 tackles and 6 sacks.  So what’s the difference in 2012?  Two words…Contract Year!  If we don’t see the best version of Anthony Spencer to date in 2012, something is a miss.  I’m siding with the 2012 Spencer who’s playing for a fat contract over all of the previous Spencer versions.

2009 Victor Butler  VS.  2012 Victor Butler

This one is no contest.  Victor Butler was a rookie in 2009.  His first year he notched 17 tackles and 3 sacks. Last year, he slightly upped his production to 23 tackles and 3 sacks.  With an increased role in 2012 and playing to earn a starting spot for 2013 when Spencer likely exits, there’s no doubt we should see Victor’s best ball so far.  Not to mention two more years of experience since his rookie season can do nothing but help a young player’s understanding of the NFL game.



  • Key Players:

2009 – Gerald Sensabaugh / Ken Hamlin / Pat Watkins

2012 – Gerald Sensabaugh / Brodney Pool / Barry Church

  • Matchups:

2009 Gerald Sensabaugh  VS.  2012 Gerald Sensabaugh

The stats on Gerald Sensabaugh say he was a better player last year than in 2009.  In 2011, he recorded 75 tackles, 2 INTs, and 3 pass deflections.  In 2009, his totals were 66 tackles, 1 INT, and 8 pass deflections. While the numbers are not quite the same, we also have to remember he was on the field a lot less in 2009 due to the better overall performance of that defense.  My assessment here is that Sensabaugh is probably right around the same type player now as in 2009.  Three years ago he had, and next year he will have a solid surrounding cast of corners to back up.  I expect his play to stay fairly even.

2009 Ken Hamlin  VS.  2012 Brodney Pool 

In 12 games in 2009, Ken Hamlin produced a modest 52 tackles, no INTs, and 2 pass deflections.  Let’s just say he didn’t set the world on fire and the Cowboys made no attempt to re-sign him for 2010.  Since his last season in Dallas, Hamlin has played in 9 games with 3 total tackles and 0 INT’s.  Being only 31 now, that says a lot about his stiff decline upon reaching the end of his 20’s.

Not to fault Dallas for signing him, as he had a solid year in Seattle the season prior (96 tackles, 3 INTs, 11 deflections), and an impressive first year with Dallas in 2007 (62 tackles, 5 INTs, 15 deflections).  However, by 2009 Hamlin’s ability had waned dramatically.

As for Brodney Pool, before losing his job last year in New York, his career was about average for a starting safety.  In 2009, he posted 50 tackles, 4 INTs, and 10 deflections in Cleveland.  With the Jets in 2010, Pool logged 53 tackles, 1 INT, and 11 deflections.   While he was never as good as Hamlin when Ken was in his prime, Pool certainly has very comparable numbers to the Hamlin of 2009.  I don’t expect much more than average play from Pool and assume he will share time with others.  Yet I also believe he’s good enough to hold the modest level Hamlin displayed in 2009, and certainly won’t be any worse than Abe Elam in 2011.

2009 Pat Watkins  VS.  2012 Barry Church

In 2009 Pat Watkins entered his 4th year in the NFL, Barry Church is entering his 3rd year in 2012.  Church had 28 tackles last season in 13 games, while Watkins logged 21 tackles in 8 games.  Neither snagged an INT, and neither were a significant enough part of the defense to factor in very strongly.  While I think Church will be much improved and more involved in 2012 than he has been to date, at the moment there is not enough information to bump him past Watkins.  Watkins was certainly nothing special, yet I’m gonna call this one a tie and hope Church exceeds my placement.