As good as the defense was last season they had one major flaw. They had a very hard time forcing turnovers. The odd thing about that is the strength of the defense, the pass rush, is usually a recipe for turnovers. For most teams if they can get pressure in a quarterbacks face then he will make mistakes trying to throw the ball early or force the ball into coverage because they are under duress. On top of that, it you hit the quarterback a lot during games that usually results in fumbles.
But the Cowboys defense just doesn't get the results that you would expect. Last season they had just 11 interceptions. That is not a good number. The Cowboys tied for 26th in the NFL in interceptions. The league lead belonged to the Green Bay Packers who had 30 picks. Yes, 30. That makes the Cowboys interception number look embarrassing.
The Cowboys forced 17 fumbles and recovered 10. They tied for 11th in the NFL in forced fumbles and tied for 16th in fumble recoveries. Again, not good numbers. Especially when you see that the Cowboys were 7th in the NFL with 42 sacks.
So what gives? The Cowboys were 19th in points allowed per game with 22.6 points allowed per game. The defense improved in that category dramatically over the second half of the season, but the turnovers were missing all year long.
If the Cowboys can improve their turnover ratio it will result in more wins and more lopsided victories at that. What can they do differently? They are pressuring the quarterback early and often and that will pay off in the long run if they improve in some other areas.
There are a few dynamic playmakers that seem to look for the ball. Demarcus Ware makes an effort any time he is near the quarterback to get the ball. Mike Jenkins always finds a way to get his hands on the ball. Terence Newman is around the ball but he often lets big opportunities slip through his hands. Maybe Sensabaugh will come up with more picks playing without a cast this season. But, overall, I think the defense isn't focused on taking the ball away from the offense.
So is it coaching? The defensive schemes have to play a role in the problem. The defense doesn't focus on gambling for turnovers like the Packers or Saints. But there is a flip side to that. The Packers and Saints also give up big plays on a regular basis because they are gambling for interceptions. The Cowboys philosophy seems to be permanently focused on the conservative approach defensively.
I'd like to see a change from a coaching standpoint next season. Obviously part of the issue is just not having a lot of players who are big turnover machines. But I think the coaches need to give the players more chances to gamble on a pick go for the big hit to jar the ball loose. I'm all for the conservative approach if it is going to limit points for the opposition. But there are situations in the game where the players can take a chance or anticipate quick throws. For example, why in the world are the DB's always playing soft coverage on the goal line? There are times to get up on the receivers and all too often the receivers get a free release in situations that really seem to require press coverage.
When the Cowboys send an all out blitz the DB's should be jumping the quick slants, quick hitches and quick outs. A blitz usually results in the quarterback getting rid of the ball quickly. The cornerbacks shouldn't be 7-10 yards off the receivers in those situations. I'm not saying they get up in press coverage on every blitz because the offense would know what was coming. But even playing off they can jump the short routes if the are given the freedom to take a chance now and then.
I can see that Mike Jenkins has the mentality of a guy who wants to take the ball away. Wade Phillips needs to turn him loose a few times a game in the right situations. And the same goes for the rest of the defensive backs. I don't want the whole scheme changed. I would just like to see the Cowboys mix it up a little bit with the coverage to give the defense more opportunities at turnovers.