When a team changes their coaching staff, there will usually be some kind of change in scheme. For the Cowboys, their offense will have some new wrinkles, but will still be under offensive coordinator Kellen Moore so fans will still see a lot of similar plays and formations from last year. On defense, though, there should be a major change.
The Cowboys under Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard ran a pretty predictable defense. There were many occasions that have been documented where opposing offenses talked about knowing what the Dallas defense was going to do on a particular play, or being able to pick up their hand signals in the secondary. Even some Cowboys players this offseason noted they are happy to see that there will be some changes in the defense and changes in technique.
One player is undergoing not only a scheme change like all of the defense, he is also going to change positions. Jaylon Smith will switch spots with Leighton Vander Esch and will now operate on the weakside while LVE handles the middle. This is going to give Smith some more freedom in the things he can do.
Today, Smith discussed the new defense in a call with the media.
When asked about the new defense, he labeled it a hybrid.
It’s going to be a hybrid, to where we can get to any type of scheme that we want to. It requires a lot of learning, a lot of attention to detail, but we got some smart guys that are willing to prepare the right way.
Learning will be a key since it appears that this defense will be much more complicated than the one the Cowboys ran for a while. Smith constantly referred to learning and growth as a key for the defense this year. He also discussed his personal role.
A lot more active, able to showcase my versatility. More on the weakside, roaming around a lot, being able to make things happen. Leighton will be more in the middle.
I’m versatile, I can do multiple things whether it’s cover, stop the run, blitz, rush the passer; whatever any coach asks me to do I’m going to do it. My first four years here in the league, been playing the MIKE position and was able to have some success. For me it’s about learning and growing.
The change of adding 3-4 looks has been discussed a lot. Smith thinks it will play better to the personnel the team has on hand.
[The 3-4] provides versatility looking at our personnel, put our players in the best position, that is what this coaching staff has done.
Smith was also asked if the previous defense was too predictable. He took a diplomatic approach to that question, but it seems as if he relishes his change in position and the versatility of the new defense.
[Disguising stuff, different looks] is something that is of emphasis more, but at the end of the day its 11-on-11, guys have to make the plays and we didn’t make enough plays last year. Regardless of scheme or whatever, it’s up to players at the end of the day. We didn’t get the job done like we needed to. I’m a sponge, I’m back on the weakside, playing my old college position. I’m a little excited about that.
Excited to have my partner back in Leighton, he’s been through a lot, I know how that feels. We’ve got something to prove this year, not only the defense but the entire team.
It should be a new world for the Cowboys opponents with Mike Nolan’s new defense. There will be multiple looks up front, and the secondary will have more coverages and will also try to disguise what they are doing. What Smith says in the end is also true - the players have to make the plays. They will need to study and learn so that all eleven players are on the same page.
For the fans, though, there should be a lot more interesting formations and coverages to watch. Hopefully, it will make a difference.