Building A Champion; Part 3 of 3 - Defense

Today in the final edition of building a champion. We take a look at the strengths, weakness and things we do well but need to improve upon before they become weaknesses from the defensive side of the ball.

To read part 1 of Building A Champion; Offense click here. For part 2; Special teams click here.

Bright spots

Turnovers. This defense was top 3 in take a ways during the 2013 season. This is because of the mindset Rod Marinelli instilled in us. With a healthy defense and another year with Rod this defense should get even better with turnovers. Think the Chicago Bears.

The bad part about our turnover numbers. It's true that we had a lot of them however in December we only accounted for 3 take-a-ways. In the 12 games before that last month of the season the defense had 25.

George Selvie. Lucky the Cowboys have George wrapped up for another year. In 2013 Selvie made a name for himself. Selvie amassed 7 sacks and 45 tackles this year.

Orlando Scandrick played out of his mind. Scandrick made a claim to a starting spot in the backfield. Scandrick has a career high with 2 interceptions, pass deflections, tackles and only missed a career high in sacks by a half of sack. In a year where our defense did poorly, Scandrick was a true bright spot on the other side of the ball.

Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli. For as many people that want Kiffin out. We need to realize that Marinelli and Kiffin are a package deal. We need Marinelli to help this defense. With all the faults of the defense they scored 5 touchdowns. This defense played a ball hawking style until December. On every tackle these players tried to jar the ball loose and on 13 fumbles we came up with the ball. With a departure of Marinelli this mindset goes as well. 

Barry Church almost got a pro bowl nod (mid way through this season) having 3 forced fumbles and being the Cowboys leading tackler with 135 tackles.

Question marks

Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer. These two players are big concerns in Dallas. Their future is the question. Spencer's more than Hatcher. Hatcher just had his first big season in Dallas (with 11 sacks) the question is was this season a mirage or something to look forward to from Hatcher. So the decision to keep Hatcher will come in the off-season. I expect Dallas to let one of these players walk. I do think that it also depends on how we treat Ware's contract. All season this defense got killed in the media for being bad. It could be a real doomsday to see this team lose Spencer, Ware and Hatcher. The later two are Dallas' sack leaders from the past 2 seasons.

Hatcher's age is also a question being 31.When next season starts Hatcher will be 32.  Spencer had a great season in 2012, but much like Hatcher we wonder is this a dream season or can we expect 10+ sacks from Spencer in future. Injuries are also a concern.

DeMarcus Ware. Ware is not playing like himself and may not be a Cowboys in 2014. Unless Ware takes a pay cut we could be without him. It's easy to say getting rid of Ware is for the best but Ware had 6 sacks. The quietest 6 sacks ever. Even if Ware's double digit sack days are behind him these are 6 sacks we could use in the future. 

Morris Claiborne. This is a make or break season for him. Mo played in only 7 games this season due to injury. Midway through a CB 2nd season coming in to his third is where the best become the best (see Revis and Sherman). Claiborne with only 1 full season under his belt is behind. Mo has only started in 23 games. He should be at 32 for a draft pick we traded up to get. 

Is Wilcox ready? Wilcox is a guy I touted highly after the draft. However Wilcox was a 3rd round pick from a small school and should have been treated as such. Wilcox was pushed to start entirely too early. He should have sat behind Will Allen (whom Dallas cut early on) and Barry Church for the majority of this season. Wilcox has only played the safety position for one year and needs to learn to position first. Once he can fully grasp the position he can use his stills (as a former wide receiver) to make plays in the backfield. Also for some odd reason Wilcox played about 20 yards deep on most plays. No safety can be effective from that far away from the ball. For more on Wilcox watch for our player profile series coming up after the Super Bowl. 

Who will play defensive tackle. (Both spots) 20 different players played defensive line for Dallas in 2013. This is the 2nd straight year with an obscene amount of injuries. Hayden and Hatcher are slated at the DT positions. We already addressed Hatcher but Hayden is not a starting caliber DT. Hayden started 16 games this season and didn't come up with one sack. In fact he only has 2 (sacks) for his entire 5 year career.

Ben Bass and Tyrone Crawford. These two were supposed to be the help needed with our defensive line (Crawford as a starter and Bass as a back up). The problem is these two haven't done anything on the football field. Both being 2nd year players, Bass didn't get on the field in 2013 and he only played in 2 games during 2012 but that's my point. Crawford only had 20 tackles in 16 games during the 2012 season. There are no guarantees that either of these two can play. I have nothing against them but we need more answers from a front 4 that the issues as they did last season. 

Things to build on before they get worst.

Brandon Carr needs to get better. Carr is not a shut down nor is he terrible. Carr needs to make his mark. A lot of Carr's problems is a direct result of the coaching staff. Brandon Carr is a corner that works best in press man coverage. The system that he plays in is mostly off coverage and zone. When Carr is allowed to press his man 1 on 1, he looks like the 50 million dollar man we paid for 2 seasons ago. The front seven also plays a big role in his performance. In Kansas City, Carr had Johnson and Hali rushing the quarterback helping him out. The best corner backs have a decent front 7 helping them out. Ask Revis and Sherman. Even Talib in New England and the Bengals' corners have decent front seven limiting the time a corner has to cover his man. If Carr can get a front seven playing better he can play better.

Player turnover. This season the Cowboys played 41 players on defense. Most were D linemen. Injuries happen to every team. However this is the second straight year that this defense had been ravaged by injuries. 

Sean Lee is injury prone. Bruce Carter is as well. Justin Durant is not a starting to replace Durant. Best case scenario DeVonte Holloman may be able to take on the role of solid back up or even pushing Durant out of the door.

Barry Church was the teams leading tackler. The safety should not be you're leading tackler in any case. I normally don't want my safeties making tackles unless they are behind the line of scrimmage. Seattle's Earl Thomas does this well. Church and Heath make tackles the middle of the field which is a last line of defense not a every play scenario.

No defensive player not named Barry Church had more than 75 solo tackles on this team. Leading defensive teams have their leading tackler make over 100 tackles. The obvious reason is that no one other than Selvie, Hayden, Carr and Church that played the full 16 games.
Building A Champion; Part 3 of 3 - Defense Building A Champion; Part 3 of 3 - Defense Reviewed by Mr. DCStands4 on 1:42:00 PM Rating: 5

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