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Is There A Defensive Shift In Philosophy Taking Place For The Dallas Cowboys?

While former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and current guru Rod Marinelli share a very similar school of thought, the Dallas Cowboys defense promises to look and act differently in the 2014 NFL season.

The "Iron Horse" addresses the changes in the Dallas defense under Marinelli.
The "Iron Horse" addresses the changes in the Dallas defense under Marinelli.
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Other than the change in who is setting the weekly strategy and making the in-game decisions, there will be other changes that take place as well. Defensive back Brandon Carr is quick to remind us that these changes are not all due to a change in the strategic outlook of the respective coordinators. He points out that many of the changes we see this season will be more evolutionary than revolutionary. This is largely due the fact that the team has had a full season to become familiar with the new concepts and that the coaching staff has used the same period to learn and develop the capabilities of the players.

"I don't really think it's different as far as just who's running it. It's just different because it's Year 2 in this scheme so we kind of know what we do well and what we don't do well. So we kind of play to our strengths now, and we can work on the stuff we don't do so well." - Brandon Carr

One area that is wide open for a Marinelli-led evolution is in the type of pass coverage the Dallas Cowboys feature. Both Carr and Morris Claiborne are primarily man corners who struggled in the zone coverages that the team ran in 2013. BTB editor Dave Halprin gave us an early look at how the team's philosophy was adapting to the talent on hand when he looked at the role Rod Marinelli will play in the team's success this season. Man-to-man defense is expected to play a much larger role in the Dallas pass coverage than it did last season. This is a change that is suiting the former free agent who was signed to be the Cowboys shutdown corner two seasons ago.

"I think our philosophy has changed. Just want to be a little bit more aggressive in the back end -- kind of put some more weight on our shoulders. It's always good to be playing with your guys for a second year. You kind of know each other better and know the scheme...I love (man-to-man defense). But I see the way the league is going nowadays; teams throwing it 50 times a game almost that it's always good to change (defenses) up -- to throw in some zone..."

The Dallas defense is going to be playing to its strengths in 2014 and the veteran corner is expecting that, thanks to the evolution in philosophy and the time the key players have been working together, this will be the season when things start to come together. Carr says that it's more than just one thing, a missing piece somewhere in the puzzle. It is the sum of many small things gelling at the same time. It is primarily everyone working well together to achieve a common goal.

I just know that it takes time for defenses to evolve and kind of jell together. And that time can be a year or two for some teams, others can be three or however many years just for the camaraderie and get the right players in the system that can go out there and make plays. And I just think this is an extra year for us to get better as a team and rely on each other more and learn the coaches and vice versa."

Depending on whom you ask, this may or may not be a shift in philosophy; things will be different in 2014, but they will also be the same in many aspects. Personally I tend to see it as more a matter of things coming together in an attempt to make the total more than the sum of its parts. That is something that has seemed to be lacking during the recent era of Cowboys football, at least on the defensive side. In that sense, this shift would be more evolutionary progress; however, the shift away from relying on big names making impact plays and toward integrating everyone's skill-set into a solid and functional unit does seem to be a revolutionary departure from the philosophy of the most recent era.

This is a mantra that Jason Garrett has embraced throughout his tenure as the head coach, and in retrospect we probably should have seen this shift coming sooner.

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