What REALLY happened to the Cowboys defense in 2010???

Over the past couple months there has been much debate over the reasons for the Cowboy's defense falling to pieces in 2010. In this fanpost I will attempt to uncover the true reasons for the mess that was the Cowboys D last year.

Note: I use PFF grades somewhat in my analysis, if you do not think these grades accurate, please do not tell me, let's just agree to disagree, no one's making you read this fanpost, thanks.

Possible reasons include:

  • Inconsistent pass-rush
  • Poor secondary play
  • Predictable play-calling
  • Over estimation of talent on team
  • Lack of effort due to Wade "the-softie" Phillips
  • Any number of combinations of all the above reasons


Possible Reason #1: Inconsistent Pass-Rush 

Possible reasons for this include: having only two good pass-rushers (Rat and Ware), and having only two good pass-rushers on the field on running downs (same). Frankly, I don't but this theory. My reasoning is that Stephen Bowen graded out well as a pass-rusher on PFF and, he started from week 9 onwards. Also, the Cowboys were the highest graded pass-rushing TEAM in the nfl on PFF in 2010.

Possible Reason #2: Poor Secondary Play

I am of the opinion that this played a large part in the decline of the Cowboys' defense last year. My reasoning is as follows:

a) The secondary was never that good in the first place - in 2009 with a DOMINANT pass-rush, and great run D to make opponents one-dimensional, the pass D was still only average (although the secondary did play pretty well, especially the CB's)

b) The CB's and FS graded out extremely poorly on PFF. This essentially just confirms the obvious - the Cowboys secondary stunk it up in 2010. But, because I think the pass-rush was good, I essentially blame the secondary for playing poorly.

c) IMO, the pass-rush was still good, the CB's were the same guys, so I think a large factor in the CB's stinking up the joint was the unreliable play of FS Alan Ball.

d) Also, something I can't be sure of, but am highly skeptical of, is Jenkins' motivation. his only good year came when his starting spot was challenged by Scandrick. The league is full of guys who pony up in contract years, or when they have to, then mail it in when it doesn't count, I can only hope we don't have one of those guys in Mike Jenkins.

Possible Reason #3: Predictable Play-Calling

TBH, I think this probably was a factor in the lack of pass-rushing productivity from the LB's and DB's, but without more extensive research, I couldn't conclusively say so for sure. All I know is how embarrassing it was watching Keith Brooking get stonewalled by Clinton Portis in slow motion replay.

Possible Reason #4: Over Estimation of Talent on Team

I think this is definitely a factor. I myself, went into the year thinking - "two GREAT OLB's rushing the passer, two pro-bowl corners, and a great run D, we're set". Obviously I was drinking the kool-aid somewhat. Anthony Spencer, in all his years of play, has ONE season of good play (it's commonly said it was only half a season, but PFF has him relatively consistently good throughout the year). The combined pass protection grade of RT's he dominated that year (got a pass-rushing grade of 1 or higher in the game, I can't be sure all of the pressure he got in each game was against the RT, in fact it's highly unlikely, but it's highly likely most of it did) was +28.6. This is excellent and some of the better ones he did this against include Tyson Clabo, Jon Stinchcomb (was actually good back then), and Winston Justice (8th best pass-blocking grade amongst T's that year at +10.2). To think he had "turned the corner" was not an unreasonable presumption, but nonetheless he was decidedly average in 2010. Also, with almost perfect conditions on 2009, Jenkins and Newman were only GOOD, not great, I think they were both extremely overrated heading into last season.

Possible Reason #5: Lack of Effort Due to Wade

I don't think this is true really. If it was would the pass-rush have graded out well on PFF? Would the passing offense have been as prolific with Jon freaking Kitna at the helm? No, I don't buy this at all.


IMO, the run D (which I haven't covered at all due to my belief that it wasn't that bad and that pass D is more important than run D) regressed somewhat in 2010, but I don't think that was the main reason we lost so many games. I think the main reason we lost so many games was because we couldn't defend the pass. I think this was due to extremely poor play at the FS position (which I think affected the play of the CB's somewhat), and poor play by the CB's. I think although our issues defensively are big, they are not MANY, and thus can be solved in one offseason. I think if we sign at least a decent coverage FS, and either sign a good CB and/or draft a CB high, we have legitimate chance of making and winning the superbowl next year. Go Cowboys!

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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