The Dark Side Of Talent(Version 2.0)

(Author's Note: The Following is a repost of an older post that I did in the preseason. It deals with what I was thinking might be a side of the Defense that I though people had overlooked.  So why am I reposting it? Well A, I feel that with us playing the Patriots the week after the Jets do, it would be a great opportunity to see if the Cowboys' "talent" is truly helping or hindering Rob Ryan. The Jets run virtually the exact same Defense, yet Rex seems to think he doesn't need a DeMarcus Ware type Player, I.e. an elite pass rusher. and B I didn't put in some stuff that I now feel would have been significant in trying to "get my point across".  So I am reposting this with said Information so that I can share my thoughts. I hope that I don't offend any one by reposting this. End Note)

Most people here know me as a very optimistic Fan of the 'Boys. And I admit it. I firmly believe that this team could do wonderful things this year. However, I want to deviate from my normal "Sunshine and Rainbows" posting to look at something that I think has been over looked by most people here. What I call "The Dark Side of Talent". Now most are probably wondering "Talent is a good thing, how can there be a bad side to it?" Well that is what I want to look at in this post. Now I will be focusing exclusively on the Defensive side of the ball for this post.

So first off I want to compare Dallas' Defense this year to the Browns Defense from Last year roster wise. The reason for this is to Highlight the Main "talent areas" that Dallas Has as opposed to the Browns. I also will not be looking at the Secondary, as the heart of the post(and Rob's defense) is the "Front 7". Plus, IMO, the secondaries of the teams are pretty much a wash...Follow me past the jump to check out the rosters.

Still with me? Good. Here is the Browns Defensive Starters from last year:(via Pro Football Reference)


POS Player Age Years GS Player stats Drafted (team/round/year)
LDE Kenyon Coleman 31 8 14 2.5 sacks, 0 interceptions, 3 fumbles recovered Oakland Raiders / 5th / 147th pick / 2002
LDE Robaire Smith 33 10 5 Tennessee Titans / 6th / 197th pick / 2000
NT Ahtyba Rubin 24 2 16 2.0 sacks, 1 interception, 0 fumbles recovered Cleveland Browns / 6th / 190th pick / >2008
RDE Brian Schaefering 27 1 9
LOLB Matt Roth 28 5 16 3.5 sacks, 0 interceptions, 0 fumbles recovered Miami Dolphins / 2nd / 46th pick / >2005
LILB Eric Barton 33 11 12 0.0 sacks, 0 interceptions, 1 fumble recovered Oakland Raiders / 5th / 146th pick / >1999
RILB Chris Gocong 27 3 16 2.0 sacks, 0 interceptions, 2 fumbles recovered Philadelphia Eagles / 3rd / 71st pick / >2006
ROLB Scott Fujita 31 8 9 3.5 sacks, 1 interception, 0 fumbles recovered Kansas City Chiefs / 5th / 143rd pick / >2002
ROLB Jason Trusnik 26 3 5 1.0 sacks, 0 interceptions, 0 fumbles recovered

By the way I recommend that you check out the player will help you to see where I am going with this....


Done it? Now did you happen to notice anything? Yep that is right, Basically a collection of Marcus Spears andAnthony Spencer type players...Decent, but nothing that would truly put fear in to the minds of OC's in the league. Yet as it has been pointed out Rob took this front 7 and made them into a group that could confuse even the best QB's in the league.

Now lets look at the Dallas roster that I think that Ryan will put on the field this year.


POS Player Age Years GS Player stats Drafted (team/round/year)
RDE Kenyon Coleman 31 8 14 2.5 sacks, 0 interceptions, 3 fumbles recovered Oakland Raiders / 5th / 147th pick / 2002
LDE Marcus R. Spears 27 5 7 Dallas Cowboys / 1st / 20th pick / 2005
NT Jay Ratliff* 29 5 16 3.5 sacks, 0 interceptions, 2 fumbles recovered Dallas Cowboys / 7th / 224th pick / 2005
LOLB Anthony Spencer 26 3 16 5.0 sacks, 0 interceptions, 1 fumble recovered Dallas Cowboys / 1st / 26th pick / 2007
LILB Bradie James 29 7 16 0.0 sacks, 1 interception, 2 fumbles recovered Dallas Cowboys / 4th / 103rd pick / 2003
RILB Sean Lee 24 1 0 0.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 0 fumbles recovered Dallas Cowboys / 2nd / 55th pick / 2010
ROLB DeMarcus Ware* 28 5 16 15.5 sacks, 0 interceptions, 2 fumbles recovered Dallas Cowboys / 1st / 11th pick / 2005

Again I used Pro football reference to link to the Player profile....Again please look at the links.


Now Dallas obviously has several players in it front 7 that are much better than what Cleveland had there. So if more talent = better group then we should be at least be better than Cleveland right? Well.....


Lets look at it from another angle. Barry Sanders vs Emmitt Smith. Say What? Bear with me on this. I truly believe that Barry Sanders was a better RB talent wise than Emmitt Smith. Now before you go all "Emmitt is the rushing Champion, not Barry" on me let me be Perfectly clear. In terms of Sheer Talent, Barry > Emmitt. I doubt that anyone would deny that. Yet as you want to point out, Emmitt is the All time rushing leader. Now there are some that would say had Barry stayed in as long as Emmitt did then Emmitt would never had caught him. Perhaps. Yet why didn't Barry stay in? Tired of Losing? Wanting to go out in his prime? We won't know that. But I digress. the reason I bring these two up is that in many ways they are similar to Dallas and Cleveland in 2010. Dallas being the world class Talent in Barry Sanders and Cleveland being the pretty good (athletically speaking) Emmitt Smith.

Dallas(Sanders) had a penchant for making big plays last year, but they also gave up a lot up big plays. Cleveland(Emmitt) didn't give up(as many) big plays and made several big plays. Why is that? Shouldn't it have been the Other way around? Well one of the difference between the two was the Talent Gap between them(both had good O-lines and capable QB's with good-great WR's)...the other was the scheme in which they played. Dallas had a Man Blocking scheme, that said each player will "Man-up" on a defensive player. The Runner had a specific hole to hit and unless it was completely closed, the runner was supposed to attack THAT HOLE. Sanders played in a "ZBS" or "Area blocking Scheme" this scheme was designed to "hit the home run" it gives the runner multiple options to attack, however is suceptible to being penetrated, thus cause a loss of Yardage(the one- cut ZBS is a modified version, that tried to negate this fact by limiting the Back to "one cut"). Sanders was great in this scheme because his vision and quickness allowed him to see and attack those various options. Emmitt was great in the Man blocking because while he also had great vision and quickness, he wasn't as quick as Barry was. Thus each were in the perfect system right? not so fast. 

You See the biggest issue with the ZBS is that it does allow for penetration by the defense. Some of this is by design, so that the runner can "Cut back" and get a big gain. the biggest issue is that alot of times the D-Line would penetrate Everywhere. it was only Barry's speed and quickness that allowed him to get past that first wave of Defenders. And it also led to the "Home run" effect. Basically because Barry COULD get a home run every play he would Always try and get it. His Talent was great enough that it was possible. In Emmitt's Case However, he knew that he couldn't get that Home run every time. so he "settled" for the single and Double knowing that in time he would get that "Home run"(Baseball in a football post Who would have thought it?) So in a sense, Barry was a "victim" of his own talent. I firmly believe that had the roles been reversed Barry could have had Multiple 2000 yard seasons. the Scheme that Dallas had would have prevented those "Swing for the Fences mentality" that created so many issues for Barry in Detroit.

The Same could be said for Wade Phillips last year. You see D-marcus Ware and Jay Ratliff are great players. So Wade got caught up in the "swing for the Fences" because he knew that Jay and D-Ware could get it. The biggest issue is that they were the only players that could. And by Swinging for the fences with them, OC's started to "pitch around them" and because everyone else couldn't get those "home runs" well...see last year(end update)

You see in Cleveland Rob was able to confuse people because there wasn't any outstanding people. From a QB perspective it would be like look at a group of people in which everyone was of average height. How do you distinguish a person(or 4) from a crowd where everyone looks the same? Unless you know the person very well then it isn't a person on the outside of the crowd would think that you were confused...

Now add two or three people that are significantly taller....really easy to find them right? Dallas has two or three player that are great, then several player that are basically average(or worse). So to go with the Crowd analogy, Dallas as a bunch of average height, along with two or three really tall people. So if you are looking for those "tall people" It is very easy to find them...they stand out.

That is the Dark side of Talent. The problem is not so much that Rob lacks talent, but the issue is that his scheme is based on deception. It is hard to deceive a person when you have players that stand out....I guarantee that team will know where Ratliff and Ware line up EVERY PLAY. They are too good for teams not to do that. The issue is what will Rob Ryan do with them... Now obviously they are great pass rushers. It wouldn't be a bad thing to just send them on every play, i.e "swing for the fences"...But remember Dallas doesn't have 11 D-Wares and Jay Ratliffs, they have their own share of Spencers and Spears, and Bradie James...good players but just above average talent wise....So what happens when team realize that Ware and Ratliff will be coming every time? again See last year.....

So how can Rob Counter this....well he has to make a decision. Does he let Ware and Ratliff "Drop out" more often, thus downgrading the talent rushing, or does he simply let Ware and Ratliff rush every down and risk the defense becoming predictable? Just something to think about as we go into the season.

As always I welcome any comments and criticisms feel free to sound off in the Comments....

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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