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Watch and Learn - How to Improve the Defense

Welcome fellow BTB members. Here I am going to make an attempt to compare our shortcomings on defense with the shortcomings and improvements that other teams have made in the league. This hopefully will give us all a vision of the direction that this football team should go this off-season and in the future. In about 7 weeks we will be entering the free agency period and the off-season will OFFICIALLY begin as we will finally be able to start making changes by changing the roster. So let's get started.

First we will take a look at the top five defenses in the league and how they did from 2010 to 2011:

Team

2010

2011

Pittsburgh Steelers

Rushing - 1
Passing - 12
Scoring - 1

Rushing - 8
Passing - 1
Scoring - 1

Houston Texans

Rushing - 13
Passing - 32
Scoring - 29

Rushing - 4
Passing - 3
Scoring - 4

Baltimore Ravens

Rushing - 5
Passing - 21
Scoring - 3

Rushing - 2
Passing - 4
Scoring - 3

San Francisco 49ers

Rushing - 6
Passing - 24
Scoring - 16

Rushing - 1
Passing - 16
Scoring - 2

New York Jets

Rushing - 3
Passing - 6
Scoring - 6

Rushing - 13
Passing - 5
Scoring - 20


Now, there is no need to look at the entire defensive roster of these teams, because obviously it's working for them. But let us take a look at a certain area that many of them had in common this year, and that is the players at all three levels of defense.

Team

Defensive Line

Linebackers

Defensive Backs

Pittsburgh Steelers

Brett Keisel
Casey Hampton

James Harrison
Lamar Woodley

Troy Polamalu

Houston Texans

J.J. Watt

Mario Williams
Brain Cushin
Connor Barwin

Johnathan Joseph
Danieal Manning

Baltimore Ravens

Haloti Ngata

Ray Lewis
Terrell Suggs

Ed Reed

San Francisco 49ers

Justin Smith

Patrick Willis
Navorro Bowman
Aldon Smith

Carlos Rogers

New York Jets

Sione Pouha

Bart Scott
David Harris

Darelle Revis


Now as you can see in the top defenses, they have at least one playmaker at each of the three levels of defense. Hoever, if you check after this then it falls off from this after the #5 defense. However, for the most part, those teams will have a solid core of players at the position in place of one big time playmaker and play at a consistent level.

Now lets take a look at how the Cowboys have been the last few years in these areas:

Year

Rush

Pass

Scoring

2009

4th

20th

2nd

2010

12th

26th

31st

2011

7th

23rd

16th


So who were the players that we had at the three areas of defense during this time. Funny thing is that I only have to do really one table/list because we haven't added anyone in that time frame that deserves to be on the list, except for Sean Lee. One thing I will do is if in a certain year they did have a certain player that was good there that made a strong contribution, he will be mentioned with that year in parentheticals.

Defensive Line

Linebackers

Defensive Backs

Jay Ratliff

Demarcus Ware
*Sean Lee (2011)

*Mike Jenkins (2009)


As you can see, compared to the other teams that were listed above, we had barely the players to do this in 2009 which is the best defensive year that we have had lately and probably the only reason we even made the playoffs AND won a playoff game that season, we actually had a good defense.

Basically, my point is, to fix this defense, you need to add more players to both the front seven AND to the defensive backfield. I think we have a good enough core in the Linebackers but it could stand to be improved though, as always. We definitely need a more effective pass rusher opposite Demarcus Ware. We don't need a Mario Williams or a Lamar Woodley over there (although that would be great). We just need a guy that can get 8+ sacks per year, or at least a threat to pressure the QB but still hold his own on the run. He DOES NOT need to be a run stuffer, although it's nice if that is an added bonus. He primarily needs to be able to rush the passer.

In closing I want to say something about the Talent of this team. Are we one of the most talented teams in the league? I say a definite yes. However, before you lynch me, we are one of the most inconsistent teams in the league. If we played anyone in the league with each of our players playing at the top of their game as well as their players doing the same, there would be few that could contend with us. But that is the issue, we don't get a consistent performance from anyone except for Demarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and Sean Lee. Outside of them, our players might be some of the best in the league or worst in the league any given week. You never know what you are going to get from each of the players outside of Ratliff, Ware and Lee on defense.

So the conclusion is that we mostly need to address the secondary but another player needs to be added to the front seven as well. If we can just get Mike Jenkins to consistently play well and then add another good player in the secondary we can count on along with someone else in the front seven that is reliable, you will have a good defense year in and year out. I think we are on our way, but this is what needs to be addressed this off-season. The largest area of need is the secondary, because we don't have a consistent playmaker back there. But what say you?

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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