Saturday, February 19, 2011

Potential Areas of Need - Defense

Last week I took a look at the needs on the offensive side of the ball heading into the offseason. Now I am going to take a look at the defense. Obviously the Cowboys will need help at safety but there are several other positions that will need help through free agency or the draft.

Defensive Tackle (Jay Ratliff, Josh Brent, Sean Lissemore) - Rob Ryan seems to be planning on keeping Ratliff as the starter in the middle rather than moving him out to defensive end. That means the Cowboys are pretty well set at this position. Ratliff is a pro bowler and Josh Brent showed promise last year in his limited time. Lissemore is a developmental project so it is too early to determine if he has any long term promise. I would still like to see the Cowboys find a big, sloppy, mean guy to man the middle and move Ratliff out to defensive end but it doesn't look like that will happen.

Defensive End (Stephen Bowen, Igor Olshanksky, Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher, Clifton Geathers) - The Cowboys need a lot of help at defensive end as it stands right now. Bowen, Spears and Hatcher are all set to be free agents this offseason. I would like to see Spears come back because he is so stout against the run. Hatcher and Bowen both had a chance to win the job after Spears went down and neither guy played lights out. Bowen seems to get the most praise from opposing coaches between the two. Olshansky was a Wade Phillips guy but he has been solid since he arrived in Dallas. I expect the Cowboys to draft a defensive end but I think Spears and/or Hatcher will be re-signed.

Outside Linebacker (Demarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Victor Butler, Brandon Williams) - The starters are set here. Demarcus is one of the best defensive players in the league but Spencer needs a bounce back season. Rob Ryan had a lot of praise for Spencer so I expect the new attacking defensive scheme to benefit Spencer. Depth is the problem at outside linebacker. Victor Butler is a good pass rusher but undersized against the run. Brandon Williams was a Wade Phillips guy and has battled knee problems so he is running short on time to prove himself. I expect the Cowboys to draft an outside linebacker for depth.

Middle Linebacker (Bradie James, Keith Brooking, Sean Lee, Leon Williams) - The Cowboys are old at middle linebacker. Keith Brooking will probably lose his job to Sean Lee next season. Bradie James is a solid player but is hitting the downside of his productive years. I hope the Cowboys can find a way to convince Brooking to come back next season in a reserve role. I'm hoping the Cowboys target a middle linebacker in the first half of the draft that can supplant Bradie James in the next few years.

Cornerback (Terence Newman, Orlando Scandrick, Mike Jenkins, Bryan McCann, Alan Ball?) - I know a lot of people want to run Newman off but I think he has 2-3 very good years left in him. He is a good player when he has help at safety. Jenkins got off to a bad start and then the officials seemed to be looking for a reason to throw a flag on him for the first 8 games this year. He settled down and played better in the second half of the season. I was ready to cut Scandrick early in the season he was so bad, but by the end of the season he was playing very good. McCann showed some flashes last season but he needs a lot of work. Alan Ball is now listed as a cornerback on the Cowboys roster on their website so hopefully the experiment is over and he can move back to his natural position. If Ball moves back to cornerback the Cowboys are in good position in terms of depth but still need to find a cornerback late in the draft to develop.

Safety (Gerald Sensabaugh, Alan Ball?, Barry Church, Danny McCray, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah) - The Cowboys are hurting at safety. Sensabaugh is a free agent but could come back if the price is right. But the free safety spot is probably the biggest hole on the roster. I'm hoping the Cowboys will target a proven free agent to step in a immediately improve the secondary. Alan Ball needs to be moved back to corner if he hasn't been already. Barry Church has promise down the road as a strong safety. AOA had so many injuries this season there is no way to know if he has any potential. The Cowboys need to hit safety in free agency and early in the draft. This position has been a problem for far too long.

When you go through position by position it doesn't feel quite so much like the sky is falling like it did during the season. There are players who regressed like Spencer and Jenkins, but they have shown they have the talent to play at a high level. I expect to see the defense bounce back in a big way next season...but only if free safety and depth concerns are addressed.


  1. Two words... Free Safety. This is the where biggest area if need on the whole team lies. It just happens that atogwe has been released by the rams. Jerry really needs to go get this guy. The Ball experiment was a failure, and I honestly believe that the problems at safety were one if the biggest reasons for the failure of 2010. And even though the guy has been kind of snake bitten on the injury front I would like to see bob sanders wearing a star. He is elite when he's healthy, and hey the whole defense is learning a new system so why not bring in some new blood with way more potential? They can take care of safety via free agency and go get OL help through the draft.

  2. Hey there. Diggin' the 'Boys blog, seriously.

    In fact, probably the best fan-made Cowboys blog on the Internet -- that we've seen at least.

    Anyway, we run a weekly NFL podcast/blog. We record shows every Monday (or so) and we'd love to have you on this week, since we're going to do some "camp reports" starting with the NFC East. It would be awesome if you joined us to discuss what's going on with the 'Boys, where they need to improve, and a projected win-loss record for next year.

  3. Also, the e-mail -- if you're interested -- is

  4. Jerry better go get the DB from Oakland or Champ Bailey & get the Atogwe from the rams. We know the Eagles are looking at the guy from Oakland, we don't want them getting their hands on him. We already got to worry about Samuels and if they get the guy from the raiders they'll have two shut down corners and move the other starting DB to the nickle.
    Jerry messed up last yr by not going after key FAs, he can't afford to do that this yr we the fans want a superbowl NOW.

  5. WBF

    You know honestly R2W it is hard to even venture a guess anymore. It seems like everywhere needs improvements and etc. Honestly with a new DC things couldn't straighten up. Look at the offense under garrett. All it took was a fire. Hopefully the new DC will start a fire for Defense.

    Again it just seems overwhelming to even venture guesses or have a conversation on it. I'm sure the boys will make a lot of improvements and move arounds and redirects. I just hope this new DC is able to step in and pull it all together whatever the outcome is.

    That and you know me i'm an Offense man myself Defense i've never been to good at(talking about it anyways.)

    Also congrats on getting invited to a podcast.

  6. Hey man great blog, i like ideas. i agree that they should make a deal on the lockout instead of letting egos getting in the way. please follow me