May 21, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee (50) cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) and cornerback Brandon Carr (39) participates in a drill during organized team activities against running back Lance Dunbar (25) at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Don: So that begs the question of “what does this mean for us?” Moving to a more physical, press man coverage is going to be difficult with flag happy officials calling holding, illegal contact or pass interference when anyone breathes on a receiver. A tight rule enforcement change will benefit teams playing more zone or Catch-Man coverage. Unfortunately, it seems like it could be the worst possible time to be going the opposite way.
Meredith: Legit points. But moving towards press man coverage doesn’t necessarily mean that is the only technique Marinelli will employ. These guys now have experience playing press man under former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in 2012 and zone under Monte Kiffin last year. While the switch did not go as smoothly as hoped last year, the experiential knowledge can be utilized this year to vary their coverages. Like I said, I am feeling good about this group. Now, for our safeties – Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson, and Jeff Heath – we have more total raw talent at safety than any time since the mid 90s, with Woodson, Thomas Everett, James Washington and Kenny Gant.
Don: Here’s the problem as I see it: they all play the same position. They all look like natural, strong safeties who can play in the box, and make plays downhill. Church is our clear strong safety. We need to pair him, with a rangy, centerfielder-type who can play in the single high, or go hash mark to sideline and make plays on the football in the air. Think about what Seattle has – an in the box thumper in Kam Chancellor and rangy playmaker in Earl Thomas. All of these guys can play, but I don’t see the right skill set on any of them to play centerfield. One possible under-the-radar solution is Jakar Hamilton. He looks to have the skill set to play opposite Church and be the ball hawk we have been missing for a decade. It will be critical for him to get reps during camp and show his value-add – I think we look solid if we find that component.
Meredith: Maybe he is the next undrafted free agent gem the scouting department unearthed? Now, we know where my heart lies in terms of our UDFAs, but I really like this dude. And I’m not alone – his work ethic, attitude and skill set have been noted by a number of folks. Bryan Broaddus had this to say:
"“If there’s a guy to step up and compete with Wilcox between Heath and Hamilton, I believe that it will be Hamilton. There is just a smoothness to his game when it comes to coverage, whether he is in the deep middle of the field or working in the slot handling a flexed tight end. His recognitions and reactions have been on point. He’s one of those players that finds his way to the ball with good angles. In his coverage, he’s in position to intercept the ball or make a play on it.”"
Plus, he is pretty adorable – did you see his interview back in May? So, so great.
Don: Adorable. Yup, that’s the exact word I would use to describe how I like my safeties.
Meredith: Ha. Fair point, though it’s true — I like my guys tough, yet human. But really, I guess my larger point, and like I was saying with Mo, is that the attitudes are what I like the most out of camp thus far. Maybe I am not reading enough coverage out of other camps, but these guys seem really excited to be here – THEY GET TO PLAY FOOTBALL FOR THE DALLAS COWBOYS!! – and they want to make the most of it.
I also think your earlier observation about accountability is critically important. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed too – the way the guys have been talking, it’s about a clean slate. They know their performance wasn’t indicative of the ability of the team and they all seem willing to take responsibility for their role in that – from coaches on down – while not pointing fingers and just step it up this year. They seem more protective of one another than in past seasons and there is a focus on being dependable for one another.
Don: You really do love that stuff – I can easily picture you decorating your teammates’ lockers in high school before big games or leading some sort of trust exercise during a retreat. Do the Cowboys have a line on their organizational chart for that type of position?
Meredith: All of the above are absolutely correct – I take team building and culture creation very seriously. I should totally write a job description for myself – Team Culture Coordinator. That’s really something to shoot for. Short term, maybe I will make us some t-shirts for Sundays this year – I’m super good at puffy painting.
Don: Please don’t. As Cowboys fans we have enough trouble in New York City bars as it is – let’s not put bigger targets on our backs.
Meredith: Fine. I’m going to think of some other team building activities our little Cowboys fan crew can do this season. I’m thinking road trip…..Maybe London?
Don: Ha, fine. You look into that and we’ll discuss next week.