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Zimmer looking for improvement on defense

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The Cowboys defense needs to improve this year according to coordinator Mike Zimmer. He gave the defense a list of 10 things they need to work on for this season. Included in that list:

Zimmer's offseason to-do list includes better play on first down. Three seasons ago, the Cowboys were first in the NFL in fewest yards allowed on first down (4.13). Last year, the number swelled to 4.98, which ranked a respectable eighth, though Zimmer still considered it too high because it gave opposing offenses more flexibility in whether to run or pass.

"When it's second-and-4, it's tough to make (defensive) calls," Zimmer said. "You're behind the eight ball."

The Cowboys also must improve on "sudden change" situations, the ability to stop opponents after turnovers. In 2005 the Cowboys turned the ball over 31 times, 18 of which led to points -- 12 touchdowns and six field goals.

Dallas, meanwhile, had only 26 takeaways, 20th in the NFL. The Cowboys also ranked 15th in opponent touchdown percentage inside the 20-yard-line (50 percent).

First down defense is key, as are turnovers. It would be nice to see our defense turn up the heat this season by causing some more fumbles and interceptions. Putting more pressure on the opposing QB would help, and the addition of Bobby Carpenter and Akin Ayodele will open up things for DeMarcus Ware and should allow us to get more pressure. If Chris Canty and Marcus Spears make the sophomore leap, our front seven should be very active.

Bad news on the Greg Ellis situation. He's decided that a mini-holdout is the best course of action. Given that the practices this week are voluntary, he is technically within his rights, but you can bet this isn't making Parcells happy. Especially with Ellis needing to learn a new role in the defense. From the DMN:

Coach Bill Parcells wants Ellis, who has spent his entire career at defensive end, to also play linebacker. Ellis, who was benched midway through last season in favor of Chris Canty, wants the Cowboys to give him a portion of the $7.4 million that he's scheduled to earn in the final two years of his contract as a signing bonus as part of a restructured contract. Ellis, 31 and entering his ninth season, thinks the team would be reluctant to release him after the season if the switch to linebacker fails because of the salary-cap impact that such a move would have.

Ellis is trying to get guaranteed money in case the new role he's in turns out to be a failure. The Cowboys aren't buying.

Williams met with Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones for more than two hours Sunday, but they did not reach an agreement. The team offered to guarantee a portion of his contract in 2008 and '09 at the end of next season.

The Cowboys would guarantee some money after this year, but that means they would be free to release Ellis after this year if things don't work out. Ellis knows that and is trying to get the money moved to this year.

I don't think the Cowboys see Ellis as a long-term player in the 3-4 defense and are just holding on to him this year as some sort of security blanket. Once they see what they have in some of the new players and are able to draft again next year for the 3-4 defense, they will release Ellis. Ellis knows this.

I still say work a trade and get rid of this problem.