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The Cowboys Of Summer: Defensive Players To Watch For This Pre-Season

What defensive players might catch the eye of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan?
What defensive players might catch the eye of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan?

In my first post about the 'Boys of Summer, I highlighted some of the offensive players to watch for this pre-season, but now my focus moves over to the defensive side of the football. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan finally received some help in the offseason when the front office made it a priority to focus on upgrading a defensive unit that needed some new blood.

Related: The Cowboys Of Summer: Offensive Players To Watch For This Pre-Season

After the Cowboys signed Brandon Carr and traded up for Morris Claiborne, we began to hear that maybe Ryan should be on the hot seat if his defense doesn't perform at a tremendously high level in 2012. I don't think that it is fair to Ryan because it takes time for a new coach to implement his scheme and acquire the type of players they want for their system.

Ryan did receive some of the pieces he needed in the secondary, but there are still some holes on the defense, primarily depth concerns at a couple positions. This summer, watch the players toward the bottom of the roster fighting for a roster spot and some new players that could step up and play a larger role for the Cowboys' defense in 2012.

What players will I be on the lookout for this pre-season? Take the jump for more...

Alex Albright

Albright was a very productive player for Boston College who successfully made the transition from a college defensive end to a 3-4 linebacker last summer. His play during the pre-season last year was good enough that the Cowboys couldn't cut him and he made the team. If a player (no matter if he was drafted or undrafted) makes plays consistently, then they will make the roster.

At 6'5, 256, Albright has the size and strength necessary to play as the strong-side outside linebacker in our 3-4 defense. He will face some stiff competition from some of the younger players on the roster and isn't guaranteed a roster spot.

Outside linebacker is one of the position battles that is currently flying under the radar, but there is going to be a very good competition for the backup roles on this team. If Albright continues to grow as a player, he may have the upper hand due to his familiarity and experience with the scheme.

Kyle Wilber

Wilber was the Cowboys fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and after reviewing what tape was available on him, I came away impressed with what I saw. Most of the time when a 3-4 team drafts an outside linebacker for their scheme, they usually end up selecting a college defensive end and transition him to a stand up linebacker, but that isn't the case with Wilber.

During his career at Wake Forest, Wilber battled some injuries and a difficult move from defensive end to strong-side outside linebacker. He already has experience playing in the 3-4 defense and that will play a big part in his potential success in the NFL.

I see a lot of Anthony Spencer in him, but for a fourth-round draft pick, that is a very good comparison. Wilber has been sidelined with a broken right index finger, but should be able to start training camp on time. Pay attention to him because he has the potential to be a rotational player early on in his rookie season.

Adrian Hamilton

Adrian Hamilton recorded 22 sacks last year for Prairie View A&M and 22 sacks is nothing to sneeze at no matter what conference you played in.

Danny Coale was supposed to be my pet cat for the summer, but I decided to make the switch to Hamilton after Coale suffered a injury that could prevent him from taking part in the beginning of training camp. The Cowboys could really use another pass rusher to generate pressure on passing situations. Hamilton is going to be a project because he is still raw, but he may be worth the wait.

If Hamilton has a good showing in the pre-season, then he should make the team. The Cowboys have tried to sneak players onto their practice squad before, but I don't know if they should get greedy with Hamilton. If he is worth developing, keep him on the roster so he doesn't get snatched up.

Isaac Madison

I hate to go out on a limb like this, but I am very close to guaranteeing that Madison will make the roster. Now it's pretty absurd to say that an undrafted cornerback with only one interception in his college career will make an NFL roster, but that is how much I like this kid.

At 5'10 and just 173 pounds, Madison isn't a very big cornerback, but he is a fairly physical player like Orlando Scandrick. He isn't blazing fast, but he does have some decent speed and looks to be pretty quick. If Alan Ball could make this roster as a depth cornerback, then I see now reason why Madison can't do the same.

His coverage skills are on point and he is a willing participant on special teams. If Madison can show the Cowboys that he can play with NFL wide receivers during the pre-season, he may make the team as the #4 or #5 cornerback. Check out some of his play below where I linked to some of the footage I found of him on YouTube.

Matt Johnson

When the Cowboys selected Matt Johnson in the fourth-round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Dallas fans had to start doing some detective work on him to found out who he was. There are various scouting reports on Johnson scattered around the internet, but there is one video of him on YouTube that truly highlights the ability he has. YouTube shouldn't be considered a great scouting tool, but sometimes you have to use what resources are available to you.

The Cowboys have desperately needed a playmaking safety for a very long time. It's a position that has been lacking since the great Darren Woodson retired, and it hasn't been addressed since #28 was roaming the secondary for us.

What I like about Johnson is that he has the range and ball-hawking capabilities to be a reliable free safety. He will be facing a whole new level of competition in the NFL, so the odds will be against him, but he is already becoming one of the fan favorites here on BTB.

If Matt Johnson has a good pre-season, he really could make a push for the starting free safety position. Lord knows that I have been dying to see a free safety with ball skills, and Johnson just might be the answer to my prayers.

*Disclaimer* Guys like Bruce Carter and Tyrone Crawford were too obvious, so I went for some players that aren't as high profile.

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