Can the Dallas Cowboys defense really improve? Head coach Jason Garrett is convinced they can. Even with letting star player DeMarcus Ware walk on the off-season, Garrett is convinced the Cowboys can do better than being ranked 32nd in the league. According to an article written by FOX Sports Southwest writer Jon Machota who broke down Garrett’s press conference points on defense to just 5 reasons why the Cowboys will be much improved. Those 5 points are: Youth, Valuable Free Agency Additions, Depth, Better Play From Defensive Backs and finally Better Coaching.
While Garrett does have some valid points I want to play devil’s advocate in this. It isn’t too difficult to be better than last. Once you are there, there isn’t any place to go but up. So even if the Cowboys defense finishes 31st in the league they are “improved” right?
While getting younger on defense is a definite step in the right direction, being young and inexperience will have a huge learning curve. The defense still has a lot of no named players and rookies. Mistakes will continue to happen, plays will get blown and tempers will flare both from fans and players alike. It’s still going to be a touch and go year on defense due to this fact alone.
While Dallas didn’t make a huge splash in free agency, they did add onto their defense with former Chicago Bear Henry Melton. While Melton can potentially be a force to be reckon with on defense, there is that question about his health. Coming back from a torn ACL doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to come back and be the same caliber player he was. Jerry Jones was at least smart for making his contract incentive based. The other big pick up on defense was Rolando McClain. McClain is currently going to serve jail time for chargers he had in Alabama. While McClain shows signs of potential, he could also be a potential problem. Contrary to what Garrett would like fans to believe, “valuable free agency additions” might actually not turn out to be so valuable after all.
It’s hard to believe Garrett actually said that depth was an asset to this defense. So far, Dallas has lost starting linebacker Sean Lee for the season. So therefore the team is already using one “backup” player to replace him. If it is like any of the last few seasons, fans cringe when anyone brings up depth. Dallas hasn’t necessarily had the best track record when it comes to keeping the first stringers healthy and keeping the backups fresh. This is actually a big concern because Dallas fans are use to having very little depth mostly because Jerry overpays the “star” players which leaves no cap room for “depth” on any side of the ball.
The defensive backs might be improved but it’s the still the same mediocre talent back there. While Morris Claiborne is beginning to look like a bust and Brandon Carr looking to be another overpaid player, you have to wonder where this better play is going to come from. Perhaps this year Claiborne will not have the emotional roller-coaster of personal issues going on and will be able to focus on defense and perhaps new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will find a defensive scheme that compliments the talent that Dallas actually has in the secondary. It all depends on which players show up and if they are a right fit for whatever defensive scheme Marinelli is going for. This will be interesting to watch as the season progresses.
Finally, the only one that cannot be disputed is better coaching. While former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was a scapegoat for Jason Garrett 2 seasons ago, last year’s defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was worse. Marinelli has a reputable track record in the NFL and his hard-nosed approach is exactly what this team needs to light a fire under them. Personally, Marinelli being promoted to defensive coordinator was by far one the more exciting things about the off-season. Marinelli has a reputation for getting the best out of unknown players. For this reason alone, Dallas’ defense can and will improve this year.