A look inside the trenches during full-contact drills of the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys Training Camp. Watch the defensive line and offensive line battle it out during the 1-on-1 period. Duration – 9:18
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IRVING, Texas – Trying to decipher what head coach Jason Garrett meant by going “in a different direction philosophically on defense” after Rob Ryan’s departure can be tricky.
The first way to take those comments is he might want to switch from the 3-4 scheme Ryan utilized during his short tenure in Dallas. Moving to a 4-3 might make some sense given the linebacker personnel, as well.
Jay Ratliff had been a dominant force at nose tackle, and despite not possessing the gigantic frame of most nose tackles, he managed to play the position and still create pressure. As the injuries pile on, though, a switch to a 4-3 could be helpful for him, not having to play directly on top of the center.
The likelihood of a possible switch could also depend on the team’s confidence in signing Anthony Spencer. If Spencer’s back, and IF he and DeMarcus Ware are capable of playing as pass-rushing defensive ends. If he doesn’t return, the Cowboys will have a few decisions to make about that spot opposite Ware, though that’ll be the case regardless of the scheme.
If it’s a 4-3, Sean Lee can play middle linebacker and Bruce Carter can play on the outside, while Alex Albright, Kyle Wilber or a new addition could try playing the other outside linebacker spot. If Spencer’s not back and the Cowboys still want to go 4-3, they could try Albright at end. Tyrone Crawford, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore could all get time at defensive tackle, alongside Ratliff. Clearly, more defensive tackles are needed.
This is all speculative, of course. It’s possible Garrett only meant philosophical changes regarding the members of the coaching staff.
Ryan’s already gone, and the status of the defensive position coaches remains in serious question. Linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson both worked with Ryan in Cleveland before coming to Dallas. The defensive coaching staff will need to re-interview with whomever the new defensive coordinator is to keep their jobs, and the position coaches will be allowed to interview for jobs with other teams in the meantime.
Odds are pretty good that the incoming defensive coordinator in Dallas would want to bring at least a few members of his own staff, so this would allow the current position coaches time to find work elsewhere with so many hiring’s and firings taking place so quickly right now around the NFL.
It’s possible Garrett referred to a complete staff overhaul and a scheme change when he made the comments about going a different philosophical direction. High profile defensive coordinators who run the 3-4 are still in the mix, as are those that run the 4-3, including veteran coach Lovie Smith.
Right now, it’s all speculative until further changes are made. But it’s clear with Ryan’s firing that a philosophical change likely means a significant overhaul going further than just the release of the defensive coordinator.
Editors comments: You could also interpret the ‘philosophical change’ to mean a change in the scheme … primarily reverting to zone coverage at inopportune moments and the subsequent third-down collapse we witnessed time after time.
Dallas does have the linebackers to allow for a 4-3 switch. However, they would need to add skilled defensive tackles to the roster. The DT’s listed above are young, up and coming players. They might have what it takes to make the switch successful, but Dallas should bring in a veteran or two to reduce the risk. Trying linebackers to fill this role won’t hold up during the long course of a game and 16 game season. Linebacker blitz packages could work, if they are supplementing an effective four-man defensive line.
Because of the salary cap, Spencer could become an expensive luxury. If he’s not re-signed, this could allow for a pass-rushing specialist to be added. Any of this can happen, if the Cowboys make the defensive coordinator hire quickly enough to put a plan in action (draft, free agency).
Lovie Smith’s ego may not allow him to take a demotion as a defensive coordinator. The NFL’s demand for defensively-minded veteran head coaches this year also makes the Smith hire unlikely. Let’s hope Jerry Jones has a man in mind that can take this roster and roll with it. There is a lot of talent that can be utilized by the right system.
VIDEO: Rob Ryan – I Don’t Want To Be A Distraction (Click on picture or HERE to watch)
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan talks about the improvement the defense from last year to this year, and what changes he has made personally that he thinks will help the team. (Duration: 3:57)
Jerry Jones has said Rob Ryan had a “come to Jesus” year in 2011, which forced him to make changes. The Cowboys defensive coordinator agreed some things have changed.
“I’m lighter. Feel good,” Ryan said. “I’m only talking to the media once a week now. I guess hopefully I change for the better.”
Ryan, who is in his second year with the Cowboys, is 55 pounds lighter after surgery with Dr. Adam Smith at Fort Worth Lap-Band in February. He is less talkative, too, vowing to submit only to the once-weekly sessions required under the NFL’s media access policy. The outspoken Ryan said it was his idea to talk less.
“I’m just trying to do the right thing,” Ryan said. “I don’t think I need to be distraction for this football team. There is a way the Dallas Cowboys do things, and I think that’s a professional way to do it. I don’t need to be outspoken out there. I’m going to let our players do our talking. It’s time to quit talking and start doing something. That’s what we all buy into as a defense. That’s what I buy into, and that’s what we’re all believing in.”
The Cowboys blew five fourth-quarter leads last season. They allowed 3,906 passing yards, the second-most in team history. Worse, the Cowboys finished only 8-8 and missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
“I still stand behind the job I did last season,” Ryan said. “I wasn’t horrendous. I know everybody says I was, but I wasn’t. Believe me.”
He does, however, expect he and his defense to be better this season. The Cowboys are ranked seventh overall, including fifth against the pass, after one week.
"We plan on being an excellent defense, and if everything goes right, then we will be,” Ryan said. “But we’ve got a lot to prove.”
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys have reached a three-year extension with defensive end Sean Lissemore.
Lissemore’s deal has $3.1 million guaranteed and includes a $2 million signing bonus.
"The Cowboys like him and Sean likes being there," Lissemore’s agent Wes Bridges said. "Quite frankly, Sean had a decision to make and see if he wanted to wait it out and go to next year, but he didn’t want it to be a distraction and wanted to just play ball. He wanted to get a deal done and get it done this year."
Sean Lissemore has yet to start a game in his NFL career. Obviously, the Cowboys are figuring he will at some point.
Lissemore has become one of their top substitutes and the coaches view him as a future starter. He was credited with two tackles in the season-opening win at the New York Giants, playing end and nose tackle.
He played in every game last year and had 39 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries.
That’s why they are making sure he stays in the fold for a while. Lissemore’s original four-year deal went through the 2013 season, but the Cowboys obviously want him in the mix much longer than that.
Lissemore is currently a backup on the defensive line, but his versatility to play both end and tackle is valuable in the 3-4 scheme.
The Cowboys have some aging veterans on the defensive line in Kenyon Coleman (33), Marcus Spears (29) and Jay Ratliff (31). Lissemore just turned 25 on Tuesday.
Drafted in the seventh round out of William & Mary, Lissemore played in just two games as a rookie before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. But last year, Lissemore played in all 16 games, finishing 12th on the defense with 39 tackles. He had two sacks, equaling Jay Ratliff’s total despite playing about 400 less snaps.
In fact, defensive line coach Brian Baker called Lissemore his most productive player “per snap” in 2011 and said he would get more snaps this season.
And apparently, a few more after this one as well.
Months of practices and four preseason games all culminate in one final cut day, which 22 Cowboys players won’t survive.
That time is 8:00 p.m. Aug. 31, and it’s a day that head coach Jason Garrett called one of the worst for a player or a coach in the NFL.
“I think what makes it difficult is the work that they put in,” Garrett said. “Most of our coaches and administrators are former players. They understand the commitment these guys have made. Anybody who’s been around our football team for the last month or so has seen the commitment these guys have made.”
Garrett, the offensive or defensive coordinator and a position coach all talk to the released player and try to explain why the decision was made, provide them constructive coaching and thank them for their effort. Afterward, their time as a Cowboy is finished.
Dallas has been plagued with injuries throughout the preseason, which could force them to go deep at some positions and light at others. Garrett said it’s not always the 53 best players, but the 53 players who give the Cowboys the best chance to win. No official announcement on the final roster will be made until Friday.
Garrett said the draft picks will get every opportunity possible to show the reason they were selected, but there are other players worthy of a chance. The Cowboys have a history of turning undrafted free agents into top talents, including Eastern Illinois’ Tony Romo and Monmouth’s Miles Austin.
“If you have an attitude that it doesn’t matter where players come from, it matters what they do when they get here, I think you’re more able to find some of those guys,” Garrett said. “That’s been our approach. We preached that to our players from Day 1.”
Garrett said it warms his heart to think about the commitment the Cowboys players made in the offseason to fulfill their dreams.
“We have a lot of discussions about who we should keep, what we should do with different players, what role he might have and might not have, so those are difficult discussions,” Garrett said. “What makes it hard is, in a lot of ways, many of these guys’ dreams have come to an end or have changed.”