Here is my take on the Cowboys defense after reviewing the game tape. The review of the offense can be found here. I was pretty harsh on the offensive line because I didn't grade on a curve, meaning I didn't evaluate the line based on the excellent line the Jags have on defense. If you listened to Parcells press conference today, he was much kinder to the offensive line. Maybe my review was too negative, but I think the case is more likely that Parcells didn't want to blast his line this early in the season, especially Colombo who played his first real game in a while. Parcells wasn't complimenting his line, but was saying they weren't bad considering who they were playing. I still think they were a big problem, but enough of me covering my butt. On to the defense.
RDE - Chris Canty: Chris Canty was solid against the run, holding up his end of the line in textbook fashion. Canty ended up with four tackles and was generally in position on all runs to his side. Only on one play did I see him get moved out of the way for a big run through the space he was supposed to hold. The only problem so far is that Canty hasn't provided much pass rush. It's not totally expected for a 3-4 DE to get sacks, but Canty has the talent to do it, so I would like to see more production from him in this area.
NT - Jason Ferguson: Ferguson continued his solid play from the preseason, and held the ground in the middle of the field. Ferguson ended up with two tackles, but Bradie James and Akin Ayodele both ended up with 6 tackles apiece, which tells you that Ferguson was handling the double-teams and allowed the LB's to fill. Ferguson also had a tackle for a loss when he got good penetration and deflected a pass at the goal line to stop a sure TD. Superb effort from Jason.
LDE - Marcus Spears: Similar to Canty, but with fewer tackles, Spears held up on his end of the line pretty well. He also got good penetration on a run play and made a tackle for a loss on the Jags last possession.
ROLB - DeMarcus Ware: Solid game from Ware except for one thing, he didn't get a sack or disrupt Leftwich enough to alter the game. In run support, Ware did a good job, except for two plays. One, he got up field to quickly and the run went by him and the other he got caught inside. But for the most part he played well in run support, did a good job redirecting receivers and made some good open field tackles. He also stayed at home on an end around and forced the runner wide, resulting in a negative play. But we really need him to step up his pass rush; we're counting on him to be a major force in disrupting the opposing QB.
LOLB - Greg Ellis: Ellis had a similar game to Ware, providing solid run support and making a few outstanding plays, but didn't get a sack, although through pressure he forced a few bad throws, including the one Roy Williams picked off. On one play, he got pressure when Leftwich was trying to throw a quick hitch and the ball ended up going backwards and out of bounds so it was marked as a loss of yardage. He did lose contain on one Taylor run and he followed the TE to the middle of the field instead of covering the outer zone, where he ended up double-covering the TE with Bradie James. The Jags took advantage and got a good gain by dumping the ball to Taylor. But overall, he turned in a nice effort, though we need him and Ware to start producing some sacks.
CB: Here was the big surprise on the defense. Anthony Henry led the team in tackles, but that was from his having to tackle the receivers who kept beating him for catches. He played a poor game in coverage and dropped a sure interception. In his defense on the TD catch he gave up, it was an obvious offensive pass interference which wasn't called. Terence Newman didn't play much better although he did have two pass deflections in the endzone. But he gave up 4 pass plays of over 10-yards, not the kind of effort we expect from an elite CB.
Leftovers: Bradie James played a nice game with some solid tackles, but we could've done without his facemask penalty. Similarly, Akin Ayodele played OK, except when Fred Taylor stoned him with a block on Leftwich's QB draw play for a TD.
Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff combined to get the one Dallas sack, and Ratliff played backup to Jason Ferguson at NT.
Roy Williams' game was a mixed bag, he did get an interception and had another pass deflection, but he got called for a helmet hit on Leftwich and missed a tackle on Taylor in the backfield. Pat Watkins did all right for a rookie, ending the game with 5 tackles.