Time For An Honest Evaluation Of The Cowboys Secondary


The Dallas Cowboys fell victim to their own mistakes this past Monday night. Take your pick as to what was the most devastating; the fumbles by both running backs DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle, the poor tackling on the early punt return or the constant whiffs on quarterback Colt McCoy.

While all those were painful to watch, the worst thing about the loss to a back up quarterback was watching the Cowboys defensive secondary get burned time and time again. Last year it was back up quarterback’s Josh McCown for Chicago and Matt Flynn with Green Bay. This year it was Austin Davis foe St. Louis followed by McCoy this week. For whatever reason the cornerbacks and safeties on this team have a knack for allowing back up signal callers to look like future hall of famers.

The big question is which player was the biggest problem? Safety Barry Church took full blame for the teams loss, due to his two terrible missed tackles which led to huge gains as well as points. But Church was not alone in the fault. Several third down plays the corners played too far behind their receiver allowing big plays for Washington.

Cornerback Sterling Moore was burnt a couple of time by wide receiver DeSean Jackson and corner Brandon Carr had trouble with whoever he lined up with. While Moore is a fighter, he simply is not talented enough to play as many snaps as he has been, although in my opinion he is probably a better alternative to Carr (especially when factoring in the price tag). The best corner on the team is Orlando Scandrick, and he is probably the only one who if released would be offered a starting job elsewhere, but he cannot do it alone in the secondary. In the offseason the team needs to take another long, hard look at corner, and maybe they will have better luck than when they landed Carr and LSU corner Morris Claiborne.

“In recent years no position on defense has become more significant than safety, both free and strong.” – Benoit

At safety the team also needs to take a serious and honest look at upgrading. Barry Church is not a bad player, although I do not think he is as good as the Cowboys believe. The real problem however with Church is that his fellow safety, J.J. Wilcox plays almost the same style. Patrolling the deepest parts of the field the Cowboys have two guys who are considered a liability in coverage, yet are hard hitters and sure tackling (most of the time). Neither creates much in the way of turnovers, both having only one interception on the year.

Dallas seems behind the curve in realizing how important the safety is, they stated a couple seasons ago they don’t trade up for safeties, as if it was a lesser position on the team. This explains why there is only one drafted safety on the entire roster in Wilcox (3rd round 2013). An article on the Monday Morning Quarterback before the season addresses how important that position Dallas shrugs at really is. Andy Benoit states in the article how important it is for safeties to be able to play coverage.

"“In recent years no position on defense has become more significant than safety, both free and strong. Defensive coordinators rely on complex schemes to create pressure and, just as important, the illusion of pressure. This is often achieved by using amorphous and/or overloaded fronts, which requires a free safety with ample range to secure the middle of the secondary all by himself. Many of these front are most potent with a strong safety, who is faster than anyone else near the line of scrimmage and therefore able to reach the quarterback quicker when blitzing. Strong safeties are also adept in coverage, so dropping out of a pressure look is less difficult than it would be for a linebacker” – Andy Benoit MMQB"

The team has failed to adequately assess their players roaming the secondary, placing too high an opinion on stop gap players like Church and Scandrick. They have also failed to realize the importance of a true safety with coverage skills. It is well past time that they end this patch work defensive backfield. Monday nights loss did not result due to a weak pass rush, because most of the passes McCoy threw were quick three step drops. The problem revolved around not having a centerfield type free safety and not having a corner that truly makes opponents think twice about challenging them. For all the calls for defensive line help in next years draft, I really hope the team looks just as hard at guys to stop the pass catchers.