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Dallas Defense Has Improved, But Lack Of Turnovers Hurting The Team

The defense played better against the Patriots, but if the Cowboys are going to start winning, they need more from their strength.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Without a doubt, Cowboys fans have to be impressed with what their defense can be now that all the pieces are falling into place. This bye week should bring even more good news to the pass rush as Randy Gregory is set to return to the lineup. Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain proved to be the spark that this defensive unit needed and the Cowboys were able to bring down the NFL's Golden Boy five times. A feat that has only happened once before in his sixteen-year career. However, don't let the newly found sack-attack fool you, the Cowboys still have plenty of kinks to work out defensively if this team is going to take the next step.

Without Tony Romo for at least four more games, the Cowboys will have to rely on their strength of the team and that is currently this defense. Matt Cassel doesn't necessarily restore all hope in this offense even with the impending return of Dez Bryant. The Cowboys have to win a game and win one soon. In order for them to do so, it's going to take an even better effort from the defense.

We know a lot about the Rod Marinelli defense and one of the keys is just how simplistic it is. Keeping things simple on defense has allowed for successes and improvement. Everyone is responsible for their gaps and to make plays from their responsibilities. This defense is also only really humming when they are able to take the ball away. So far, they have not been able to get the ball back fro the offense. After finishing second in the NFL in turnovers a year before, the Cowboys have only forced three turnovers this season. That is downright pathetic and has to end if this team is going to move forward and get back in the win column. Their current pace is set for 12 turnovers all season, just think about that.

It is certainly not as if the Cowboys haven't had their opportunities to make plays and take the ball away. In this last contest against the Patriots, Barry Church whiffed on a sure fumble recovery after Greg Hardy stripped the ball. Corey White in the same game missed a easy interception that could help change the momentum of the game. Tyler Patmon, Morris Claiborne and J.J. Wilcox have all had missed opportunities that could have helped the Cowboys win one of the last three contests.

It cannot be stressed enough what takeaways can do for the offense as well. Giving them more chances to score is exactly the defense's job. The Cowboys have had little to no help at all in the return game this season and are often faced with long fields on offense. If this defense can start generating takeaways, they could put Matt Cassel in better position to win games for this team. They must return to their opportunistic ways of 2014 or this season is going to drag into an offseason filled with questions. The pass rush is certainly cooking but the other guys need to step up and take advantage of their success. Sean Lee has intercepted more passes than any other linebacker since 2010. Rolando McClain has had a knack for forcing fumbles in his short stint in Dallas.

As far as the secondary is concerned, Morris Claiborne may have the best hands, he must now perform at a higher level. Rod Marinelli always preaches the ball, the ball, the ball. In fact it's a mantra through the whole organization. Maybe they have to get out on the practice field and run the scoop-and-score drill until their blue in the face but this current deficit of turnovers is taking it's part in killing this team. It's just not good enough for a defense predicated on it's ability to get the ball back.

The Cowboys spent a lot of resources on the defensive side of the ball this past offseason and they finally have the defense taking shape. Byron Jones is making the argument that he deserves more playing time at the safety position. His coverage of Rob Gronkowski, though he was helped, was nothing short of remarkable. They just have to get better at playing instinctual football which is not too much to ask from a Marinelli coached team. If the Cowboys are going to remain in the discussion, they have to get their offense in rhythm and one way to do that is by getting them more opportunities to possess the ball.

It's been said for weeks that until the offensive cavalry gets back it's going to be on this defense to step up and make plays because this offense has struggled. Though they have made changes, there are no guarantees. Matt Cassel still needs help to be successful, La'el Collins is a rookie and we don't know much about Christine Michael just yet. The offensive line is struggling as well and who would have thought the defense would be the better unit? Well, it's absolutely the truth as we stand now. This defense has got to start making plays or this team will continue to suffer losses. The defense gives them the best chance to win football games and the more they stand behind the chains in the takeaways margin, the further they will fall from their goals. If they believe they are still a 'playoff team' like Jeremy Mincey thinks they are, it's time to rally to the ball and get some W's.


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