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Cowboys defensive players get called out

JJT has a team report out over at The Sporting News.
My guess is the contingent at Valley Ranch isn't too fond of the work Marcus Spears turned in this year, especially over the last half of the season, where he was outplayed by Kenyon Coleman. First you get this comment from JJT:

The Cowboys were disappointed with the development of DE Marcus Spears this season, but they must share the blame. Spears is at his best as a finesse player, which he was at LSU, where he used his speed and quickness to make plays. The Cowboys ask him to be a two-gap player and play head up against right tackles, which doesn't take advantage of his strengths and exposes all of his flaws. If the Cowboys want to get the most out of Spears next season, they need to slant him more and use more stunts that take advantage of his speed while keeping the offensive linemen off-balance so they can't fire off on him every play.

Then you have the quotes from Randy Galloway's article this morning, which I loathe to reproduce because they come from the dreaded anonymous sources.

Marcus Spears, a former No. 1 draft pick for the defensive line, failing to display "any fire in his butt," according to one observer. "I don't want to call him a bust just yet, but Spears is now at a crossroads in his career."

I thought Spears was playing fairly decent ball against the run in the first half of the season, but over the last half he couldn't hold the point of attack. Maybe he was helped by having the presence of Greg Ellis out there. And at no time was he really producing in the pass rush. We talk a lot about the lack of pass rush, and with the 3-4 that usually gets dumped on the LB's, but it would be nice if we had some DE's that could also help out. This year, both Spears and Canty need to earn their starting spot and the Cowboys should bring in competition from the outside as well as look at Hatcher and Coleman from within.

On Canty, Galloway's anonymous source says this:

The failure to develop defensive lineman Chris Canty. "We limit him too much," said a voice. "Turn this kid loose. He's a player."

I thought Canty was one of the guys who actually played better down the stretch, but it wasn't enough to inspire confidence that he's a consistent playmaker.

JJT did say the Cowboys like the work of Oliver Hoyte, who was a surprise for the season.

The Cowboys like what rookie FB Oliver Hoyte did this season after being converted from linebacker midway through the season. Hoyte, as expected, struggles with some of the nuances of the position and, at 6-3, has a difficult time maintaining good leverage on a consistent basis. But he is a physical player, and the Cowboys like the way he takes on linebackers and the way he catches the ball. They want him to spend the offseason becoming more in tune with the playbook so he can improve his recognition, which will make him a better blocker.

I agree with this assessment, Hoyte is a very physical blocker and when he hits someone it usually does the job. But he struggles sometimes in picking up the correct defender and he occasionally doesn't make solid contact. But that will come with experience at the position, and hopefully he can become a threat in the passing game down the line.

Just to finish out the anonymous sources in the Galloway article, Roy Williams and Bradie James, everyone's favorite targets this offseason, come under fire.

"Roy has gone from being acceptable in coverage, to a joke," said one voice. "It's like he thinks he's an entertainer now, looking to make SportsCenter with his hits, while blowing off what he needs to be concentrating on."

Roy Williams has two major problems in coverage, he's slow to recognize patterns, and he is very slow about turning his hips and getting back once he realizes the need to get deeper. The Cowboys need to face facts, Roy is one kind of player when he's moving forward, and that player can be very good. But when he has to move backward, he's a disaster. Whatever your defensive scheme is, it shouldn't include Roy having to back-pedal.

As for Bradie James:

Linebacker Bradie James' sudden "confidence plunge" once opposing teams started isolating him in pass coverage. "That No. 56 looked like he didn't know where he was about half the time," said Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna, the week after the Lions lit up the Cowboys' defense in the regular-season finale.

I guess that one wasn't anonymous, since it came from Jon Kitna. Bradie, in the nickel, was awful over the last month of the season. He just couldn't cover anybody and may end up not being able to play all three downs. If he can't, the Cowboys shelled out some big bucks for a part-time player.

Over the summer, both Roy and Bradie need to spend some long evenings working on their coverage skills.

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