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Fixing the Cowboys Part II: The defense

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Earlier this week, I gave my suggestions for fixing the Dallas Cowboys offense.  Now, I turn my attentions to the defense.

  1. Get the rat out of the maze - I've been saying it since training camp and I'll keep saying it although it's obvious it's not going to happen - Jay Ratliff can do a lot more damage from the defensive end position. He's undersized for the middle and teams are recognizing that if you double-team him, you can get him moved and they are taking advantage. Yeah, he might get double-teamed some out at end but at least he'd have more space to work in. But, on the other hand, if you got him on the same side as DeMarcus Ware, you'd have a hard time putting two guys on each of them. Marcus Spears should move inside and rotate with Tank Johnson. It's not about lack of sacks with Spears, it's about lack of penetration and not disrupting plays in the backfield. The guy just doesn't have what it takes to get it done and The Rat does, but he needs to be freed from that maze in the middle where there's too much traffic.

  2. Giving up points in bunches - Whatever else we do on defense one thing is a priority; learn to cover the bunch formation. The Bengals abused us with it and the Giants did, too. If I was an offensive coordinator facing the Cowboys, 75% of my pass plays would originate from the bunch formation. The Cowboys have been using a zone-coverage to try and combat the formation but every week it's the same confusion. Guys pass off a receiver but the other guy doesn't take him, or someone sits in between two receivers but doesn't cover either, or two guys go to one area and leave another zone uncovered. It's chaos. Please Wade, Stewie and Campo, figure this out! Play straight-up man if you have to whenever you see the bunch formation but something has to be done. The Giants scored two very easy TD's out of the formation, following a pattern that's been going on all year.

  3. Youth is served - Anthony Spencer is playing much better than Greg Ellis. So play him, like, a lot! I don't care how much Greg Ellis whines about the situation, we need production and Spencer is producing. Ellis is the past, Spencer is the future. When those two meet in the present, go with the future.

  4. Please, just please - Please, allow the secondary to attack the receivers instead of waiting for the receivers to catch 8-yard passes then tackling them. If this means less Anthony Henry because he can't play that style, then so be it. Jenkins, Scandrick and Newman all have the ability to run with receivers so they can take more chances. Jenkins especially showed in training camp that he's better pressing receivers at the line than he is playing off. This secondary needs to get aggressive and quit letting offenses dictate the style of play.

  5. Shop at the Gap - We need to be more aggressive in the secondary, but one thing the run defense needs to understand is that gap responsibility is paramount. Over the last few weeks the defense has been over-pursuing and getting caught out of position leading to some long runs. Whether its guys running too fast to the point of attack and not being in control for the cutback or guys pushing in along the line and leaving the outside uncovered; we've been opening 4-lane highways for the opposition. If guys would just do their jobs instead of trying to be the hero, this defense would be a much better unit.

  6. Off-tackle - What's up with our lousy tackling skills? I don't know how to fix it but I know it's a problem. I'm just saying.

That's the best I got. It really comes down to the players doing a better job. And no, I didn't consider suggesting a move to a 4-3 defense for two reasons. One, doing it mid-season is never going to happen and for good reason. Second, I don't agree that our personnel fit better in a 4-3, in fact I think it would under-utilize some of our best defensive players.

Feel free to comment below or add your own suggestions.