The Dallas Cowboys defense entered 2007 as one of the most talented in the NFC and players guaranteed a step up in performance from the previous year. Yet the defense never truly lived up to its potential, frustrating fans with inconsistent play for most of the year. Significant improvement was shown with Wade Phillips establishing a more aggressive style system yet it just did not seem to be enough. Only a few times throughout the season did the defense step up and take over a game and play outright dominant football. Weaknesses were exploited and multiple times the extraordinary offense pulled the team from the brink, such as the game in Detroit. Taking a look back at the play of the defense in 2007 it becomes obvious that something was missing.
The players never seemed to have the drive to take over the game with a hard hitting mean streak, one that would strike fear into the hearts of the offense. Demarcus Ware, while being an absolute dominant player, is not one to fire up his teammates and lead the troops into battle. Bradie James was elected defensive captain yet his sporadic play does not necessarily frighten opposing teams. Greg Ellis has long been the veteran voice of the defense but he has been unable to get them to turn that corner. With the addition of new coaches that understand Wade Phillips defensive strategies and styles hopefully this coming year might be different. Yet with the team assembled as is, there will always be a missing quality that every championship defense possesses.
Heart, tenacity and ferociousness.
Zach Thomas is one that can come in and provide needed leadership to a young and evolving defense. He has will and drive on top of talent and physicality and has been a tackling machine his entire career. Thomas has more tackles than any linebacker currently in the Hall of Fame. He has the ability to provide solidarity and discipline in a defense that was highly inconsistent as the season progressed. Thomas has always been a shining example of heart throughout his career as he repeatedly fought through injuries to maintain his dominance in Miami. His experience would be a welcome addition to the defense and would provide that extra spark this team needs to push them over the hump.
Thomas has always possessed a stellar work ethic and exemplary tackling skills. Thomas became what Dat Nguyen would have been had his career not been cut short. He met every challenge head on and overcame every obstacle. His presence would harden up what seems at times to be an overly soft defense. The qualities that were lacking last year in this defense would be personified in Thomas as he pushes towards the ultimate goal of a championship in the twilight of his career. The last few years Thomas has been hampered by several injuries and his extended durability has been called into question. Zach Thomas will not be an every down player if signed by Dallas and none should expect the numbers he has put up over his career. His leadership and experience will become invaluable to a linebacker group desperately in need of guidance and direction no matter how much playing time he receives.
Before any of this comes to fruition Zach Thomas must consider his health above all else. Thomas missed the majority of the 2007 season suffering from post concussion syndrome and with evidence of major brain damage in ex-football players, his decision might not be a tough one to make. I would begrudge him nothing if he decided to hang up his cleats for good and retire, as football is never more important than the health and future of yourself and family. It seems though that he has been given a clean bill of health while researching possible teams to sign with, according to the Miami Herald:
''It has to be a winning team first,'' he said. ``I've got to fit the scheme. I'm looking at a team with a group of good guys. I'm looking at the place because I will be living there. And I'm looking to see what their quarterback situation is because you need a good quarterback and a good offense to win.''
Thomas had been considering retirement since the end of the season, but that is out of the question now given what he calls ``being totally healthy.''
The Cowboys definitely fit the description Zach Thomas has laid out for potential suitors. The only tricky part would be the fact that Thomas has never played in a true 3-4 scheme, although he did play in a hybrid 3-4 under Dom Capers. Thomas also might not see as much playing time here as he would like and it would be interesting to see where the Cowboys would fit him in. The most likely scenario would be alongside Bradie James on obvious running downs and his experience would prevent teams from exploiting the one gap scheme on first down like the Lions did late in the season. Unfortunately his addition would mean a backup linebacker might be cut to make room on the roster and the likely victim would be underachieving Bobby Carpenter.
The best fit for Thomas might be in Indianapolis but it all depends on what teams are willing to pay. If Zach Thomas is available for a decent price that won't be a significant hit on the cap this year, the Cowboys could definitely make use of his abilities and leadership in making a run for the Super Bowl.
Thanks to BoyzRBack07 first posting his diary regarding the possibility of Zach Thomas coming to Dallas.