In case your wondering, I'm still concerned about our secondary. Fortunately we had a backup plan going into the draft and now that plan needs to pay dividends.
Rookies Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick are now being thrust into the spotlight. With Newman down and the NFL investigating Adam Jones, the effectiveness of our secondary may hinge on this talented, yet inexperienced duo.
Scandrick will continue to fill in for Newman in the slot in the nickel package, while Jenkins would start if Jones ends up missing any time. Jenkins will continue to work in the dime defense if Jones is not sanctioned.
Newman's absence for almost all of training camp allowed Jenkins and Scandrick more work in practice. Jenkins started three of the four preseason games, and Scandrick started once.
"Game experience is a lot different than practice," Jenkins said. "The games are much faster."
These rookies importance to our defense is underscored by their double duties as cornerbacks and special team participants. As talented as they are, it seems the coaching staff isn't entirely comfortable with playing press coverage just yet. Expect to see the dreaded "cushion" that we gave to Philly and Cincinnati receivers.
The rookies have a full load playing on defensive sub-packages. Jenkins lines up wide right when the Cowboys use four cornerbacks and slide Henry over to cover a tight end, and Scandrick has replaced Newman as the slot cornerback in nickel and dime situations. Both have special teams duties, with Scandrick among the team's leading tacklers in the kicking game.
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said the team was hoping to play more man coverage going into the season, but that changed with an unhealthy Newman.
While the Cowboys play a combination of man and zone in the secondary right now, the plan to eventually use mostly man coverage hasn't changed, according to Phillips, it's just dependent on Newman's availability. With a youth movement filling in for now, the defensive backs will play primarily in soft coverage, allowing underneath throws and forcing teams to three-step drop against them. One defender said press coverage could help lead to more pressure against quick passes, but the Cowboys have been giving receivers plenty of space. This takes away from the effects of the front seven's pass rush, but it also cuts down on deep passes.
So who are these rookies? Well, Mike Jenkins is a talented, physical (6-foot, 200 pounds) and fast soul (4.38-second 40 at the NFL Combine) with return ability. He's so fast he caught Greg Olsen, who runs a 4.4, from behind despite a 10-yard head start. He decided to stay close to his Bradenton, Fla., home for college despite the pursuit of major universities. He wanted to stay close to his mom who suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure.
He's played against big-time competition and succeeded. If he gets his hands on the ball and he has a clear path, expect him to end up in the end zone. Newman has already taken a liking to him and T.O.'s also impressed.
What about Orlando Scandrick? He's a 5-foot-10, 192 pound burner (4.3 in the 40) from the O.C. He was an ace special teams guy in college as well as well as a big-time playmaker. The coaches have been impressed with his saavy and ability to learn and absorb information quickly. Here are some draft day thoughts on Scandrick.
Get used to these guys. You'll be hearing more about them in the coming weeks.
Welcome to the big leagues guys.
Now that you're on the stage.
It's time to give us a show.