Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Remaining Holes on the Roster - Defense

A few days ago I looked at the offensive needs now that the big free agency moves appear to be over. Next I am going to take a look at the defense. There have been several big changes on the defensive side of the ball and a few holes have been created by some of the free agency departures and the trade for Jon Kitna. Here is the position by position analysis.

Defensive Tackle: Jay Ratliff continues to play at a pro bowl level at tackle, but the big question is who steps in to give Ratliff a break or, in a worst case scenario, who steps in if Ratliff gets injured. I expect this position to be addressed at some point in the draft. It looks like Junior Siavii will compete with whoever is brought in via the draft. Siavii has the size needed in the middle but is still a relatively unknown commodity with his limited experience.

Defensive End: Marcus Spears and Igor Olshansky are the clear starters here. The loss of Canty hurt but Olshansky looks to be every bit the player that Canty is. Depth at end is pretty good with Jason Hatcher and Steven Bowen backing up the starters. Marcus Dixon still might develop into a backup here too, so I don't see a major need at defensive end.

Cornerback: The depth took a big hit when Anthony Henry was traded to Detroit, but the remaining cornerbacks have all shown they are capable of playing good football in Wade Phillips' defensive scheme. Terrance Newman, Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins will see most of the action but Alan Ball also stepped in last year and showed he can get the job done. The worry here is the fact that there are only four cornerbacks on the roster. I expect multiple draft picks to be used to build the depth at the cornerback position. A bargain free agent pick up isn't out of the question either.

Safety: Ken Hamlin is a clear starter, but there are question marks after that. Gerald Sensabaugh seems to be tabbed as the second starter, but there could be competition for that role if the Cowboys draft a safety as expected. Pat Watkins will hopefully return from his neck/shoulder problems to provide depth. The rest of the depth chart is filled with guys who may not make the roster depending on the upcoming draft picks. There is still a very good chance that Keith Davis will return next season to provide more depth.

Outside Linebacker: Demarcus Ware is a beast and an all-pro on one side but the second outside linebacker looks like a battle between Anthony Spencer and Greg Ellis. I wouldn't count out a Greg Ellis trade before or during the draft especially if Greg Ellis keeps complaining about his role. Either way it is time for Spencer to step up and prove that he was worth a first round pick. He was hampered by injuries last year but has shown flashes of his potential. Depth here is a major concern. There really isn't much talent on the roster here besides these three players so I would expect to see move made for an outside linebacker via the draft or free agency prior to the start of training camp.

Inside Linebacker: Bradie James and Keith Brooking are set to start as the inside linebackers. Bradie James has turned into the vocal leader of the defense and Keith Brooking should be able to help provide a spark with his enthusiastic attitude. The pass coverage in nickel situations took a big hit when Kevin Burnett left for San Diego. It is time for Bobby Carpenter to finally show what he can do. There are rumors that the Cowboys have shopped Carpenter but I would be surprised if there is much interest in him. I think Carpenter will be a solid player if he is given a real chance to play. He hasn't done much since 2006 when Bill Parcells was still here, but I believe he is a bad practice player who will get it done when it counts. The rest of the backups here are primarily special teams players who shouldn't be counted on to make big contributions to the defense. I expect an inside linebacker to be picked up in the draft. If Carpenter is traded then a bargain veteran will probably be brought in to be the primary backup.

The defensive roster has changed significantly since the season ended, but Wade Phillips seems to be getting the players he wants in his system. Hopefully the new players will be as successful in the Wade Phillips defenses as they have been in the past. The big issue here is going to be building chemistry on the defensive unit. Hopefully the tackling will improve this season since that seemed to be the biggest problem last year. I can only hope that the team will be tackling in training camp this year.


  1. I agree on Carpenter. Give the guy a real chance before you give up on him.

  2. Hey, great blog!...I've been following as much as I can. Keep it up!

  3. I love the blogs, keep it coming.

    I disagree on Carpenter. I think he came from a 4-3 defense and arrived the year Dallas converted to a 3-4, so I don't think Dallas is a good fit anymore. This is why I didn't like the pick up of Zach Thomas.
    Still I agree, give the guy a chance, and if he stinks it up drop him.

    Brady James has turned into a great inside linebacker, with decent coverage skills

    I saw too many struggles in the game tapes for the young CB's. With that said, they weren't incompetant by any means.

    Anthony Henry for Jon "my back hurts" Kitna? C'mon, a horrific trade!!

    Just my opinions


  4. I think the trade for Kitna was Greeeeeaaaat. You realize the backup QB cost us at least 2 games last year. I still think JJ keeping Brad Johnson was the worst move Jerry hadd ever made to date. I knew if before the season and it was confirmed. No more worrying about if or when Romo will get hurt. So kill the crying about the Henry trade. When he was here many of you ridiculed him often for getting burnt or being too slow. Why is it that everytime a guy leaves us, he gets so much better ther day after on these sites. Kind of funny to me!!
    On another note, im glad Canty is gone. Way overated. He really didnt do too much.The Giants got ripped off if you ask me. We got Igor who actually had better stats and for the half of what Chris Canty received. I dont know why anyone would trade Greg Ellis. His salary is low, he'll get you about 10 sacks. Name a duo of pass rushers that had better numbers than Ware/Ellis last year. Oh, didnt think so!! For you Zach fans, go back and watch the tape of the Ravens game. DO you realize it was all his fault. He got blown up on the 2nd run. On the first he whiffed a tackle. People keep blaming Hamlin, but if you watch the tape (NFL network has show the play to show how small linebackers have problems in a 3-4) you will see it was all Zach Thomas that blew it. Brookings is faster and more stout. We should be good there. We actually got better with every pick up we got and we did it relatively cheap. Good work Jerry. The only real beef I have witht the Boys is that whenever we have backups we never let them get on the field to show what they can do. C'mon, it should not have taken T.Choice 12 weeks into the season to get on the field. We have B. Carpenter but they never let him play to see if he can or not. So what he doesnt practice well. A lot of players dont. We've had a lot of players come in under the radar but way too long. Some for our team , some left . Look Ratliff, Romo, J.Reeves, Fasano, Matt Moore, etc. We got to get guys on the field. Let them play so we can see. Stanbeck,Austin, Hurd, Ball, Carpenter. Please, let us at least see if they can play ball or not!