The Cowboys secondary made a quantum leap from 2007 to 2008 by adding Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins to the mix. There were still some obvious gaps that had to be filled and it looks to me like the team has done exactly that through free agency and the draft.
Gerald Sensabaugh should be an upgrade at safety by virtue of his coverage skills and athleticism.
I read through the bios of our draft picks looking for common threads. These players are all attackers who fit well with the aggressive Phillips 34. The transition from the read-and-react defense that Parcells preferred should be complete this season. The Cowboys secondary will improve again this year over last and Wade is sending the message to opposing QBs that this defense is going to pin their ears back and come after you.
Take a look at some of our draftees to get an idea of where this defense is headed for 2009.
Jason Williams OLB - One of the most underrated players in the 2009 NFL Draft, Williams was a terror in opposing backfields since shifting to weak-side linebacker from strong safety as a sophomore. In each of his last three seasons, he ranked among the nation's leaders in forced fumbles and tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Victor Butler - LB - A standout pass rusher who broke out to register 10.5 sacks as a junior despite only starting one game, Butler was first-team All-Pac-10 and tied the single-season sack record at OSU with 12 as a senior and leaves second in school history with 25.5 career sacks.
Brandon Williams - LB -After all, Williams led the conference with 13 sacks, earning first-team All-Big 12 accolades as a junior, and leaves Tech ranked fourth in school history with 22.5 career sacks.
DeAngelo Smith - CB - The two (Smith and Mickens) combined for 26 interceptions during their careers together, more than any other active duo in the NCAA in 2008.
Mike Hamlin - SS - His 14 interceptions rank third in school annals and his 243 yards gained on interception returns rank second. He also ranks second in school history with 18 takeaways (four forced fumbles, 14 pass thefts).
Stephen Hodge - LB - His eight sacks led all Football Bowl Subdivision defensive backs in 2007, though he basically played linebacker in TCU's defense and blitzed often.
Mike Mickens - CB - Mickens was named All-American and All-Big East Conference first-team as a junior. He combined with fellow cornerback DeAngelo Smith to register 14 interceptions, the most by a cornerback duo in the major college ranks in 2007. Mickens' six pass thefts rank second on the school single-season record list, as he brought two of those thefts back for scores, gaining 136 return yards. He delivered 53 tackles (33 solos) and deflected six passes while also recovering a fumble.
These are just the rookies, the backups who are trying to make the team, but from their strengths it's clear that the Cowboys defense is going to be fast and furious.
DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer are two speed rushers coming from either edge and Igor Olshansky, Marcus Spears and Jay Ratliff will do combat in the middle. Some of those rushers will require a double team which means somebody is going to have a shot at the opposing QB, hopefully creating hurried/forced throws. Better coverage skills in our defensive backfield should mean more jumped routes and more turnovers for us.
I can't wait.