Category Archives: Leon Lett – Defensive Line Assistant

NEW TWIST ON TEXAS-2 DEFENSE: Rod Marinelli excited about his new role as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator

NEW TWIST ON TEXAS-2 DEFENSE - Rod Marinelli excited about his new role as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator - The Boys Are Back website 2014

INDIANAPOLISRod Marinelli finds himself back in a similar spot, just with a different team.

The former Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach is now also the defensive coordinator. It’s a change he’s both familiar with and excited about, going back to the role same role he had in his previous stop in Chicago.

“I’m really looking forward to it, but it’s all football,” Marinelli said. “I’m excited about the whole thing.”

The promotion for Marinelli, who’s now in charge of the whole defense, likely means an increased role for assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett. Marinelli said he feels like Lett has grown tremendously in their year together, and he believes both Lett and Ben Bloom’s help on the line will alleviate his workload.

He also said a year under his belt in Dallas will help “big time” as he prepares for his new role.

“You’ve kind of got things in place, I think, for the most part,” Marinelli said. “Now you’ve just got to make corrections and add some people and kind of go from there.”

The first place he said he’ll look for help is on the front seven. Given that the Dallas Cowboys probably won’t have much room to add key pieces via free agency given their cap situation, it’s likely Marinelli will look to the NFL Draft to try to get that done.

“We’ve always got to look at the front seven, that kind of drives the whole thing for us,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to add some pieces. I like some of the guys still that were injured last year, Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass, some of these other guys.”

Crawford figured to be a key piece in the defensive line rotation last year, but he ended up being the first casualty of camp and the first in a snowball effect of defensive linemen going down the rest of the year.

Marinelli said he has to see how Crawford moves coming off his injury before deciding what position the defensive lineman will play, but he still thinks Crawford has the ability to move inside or outside. It wasn’t long after Crawford’s injury that the Cowboys found out they’d lose both Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff the rest of the year, forcing them to cycle new linemen on and off the team.

The new defensive coordinator said he tries to look at the positive of every situation, even when it’s not always apparent.

“You have a chance to maybe really become a better teacher through the season,” Marinelli said. “It forces you to really be on the details every week, because you miss things. It’s easy to miss something when you get a guy in on Tuesday and you’ve got to get him ready for Sunday, how to condense your menu, all those things. I kind of looked at that as a positive, and I think we found a couple guys that might be able to help us continually, like George Selvie and Nick Hayden and some of those guys.”

While his focus was on the defensive line, Marinelli still had a chance to speak to and coach other players throughout the season. He said he loves talking to and teaching players, regardless of position, which should help him as he prepares for his more expansive role.

But Marinelli said mentor Monte Kiffin will still be around, helping every step of the way.

“He’ll be in there every day with us, film, working, drills, all of those things,” Marinelli said. “He’s a tremendous resource and a great coach. I’ve got great respect for him.”

It’s important to Marinelli that he’s as detailed and exact as possible in what he’s teaching over and over again to ensure his players know what he demands. When he looks back to last year’s struggles, he said it’s all about the coach and player relationship and execution, and that everyone’s involved in the team’s success, or lack thereof. 

He said another year with the roster and adding more pieces will help the defense. The Cowboys likely won’t be major players in free agency this year, but Marinelli still believes management will bring in enough pieces. He said he’s not concerned with the cap, and he’s more concerned with improving whatever he’s got.

“With me, it all goes back to fundamentals,” he said. “That’s kind of always been my base, and just getting guys to do things right and coaches got to work extremely hard. You’ve got to get more takeaways, those types of things.”

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COACHES REALIGNED AND DEFINED: Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett provides insight into 2014 coaching changes

COACHES REALIGNED AND DEFINED - Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett provides insight into 2014 coaching changes - The Boys Are Back 2014

IRVING, Texas – So the Dallas Cowboys will make major staff changes after all, especially on defense.

Through a press release sent last night, the Cowboys announced several coaching moves, including the switch at defensive coordinator. Rod Marinelli, who served as defensive line coach, will replace Monte Kiffin as the DC. Kiffin has been moved to the assistant head coach/defense. The Cowboys finished with the worst statistical season in franchise history, allowing 415.3 yards per game, the fourth-worst season total in NFL history.

Marinelli served as defensive coordinator in Chicago under Lovie Smith for three seasons. The Bears ranked ninth, seventeenth, and fifth in total defense during his three years.

“Rod’s responsibilities will be those typical for a defensive coordinator,” Garrett said Tuesday evening. “He’ll be the point person on defense all throughout the offseason and game-planning and certainly on game plan when he calls the defense.”

While Kiffin’s role has changed, Garrett said the veteran coach will take on a larger role as the assistant head coach and remains a big part of the team’s transition in defenses.

“Kiff has been such an instrumental piece for us transitioning from the 3-4 to the 4-3 defense,” Garrett said. “No better guy than Monte Kiffin to help us do that and spearhead that transition. And that transition continues. He’ll oversee the coaches coach and providing a different perspective than he had last year. He has invaluable experience as our defense continues to grow.”

As for the offense, the Dallas Cowboys officially hired Scott Linehan as the team’s passing game coordinator. Linehan, who coached one season with Garrett in Miami in 2005, will be the third play-caller in three seasons, replacing Bill Callahan in that capacity.

However, Callahan will remain as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach. Callahan reportedly has received offers from Baltimore to become the OC and perhaps Cleveland, although the Cowboys decided not to grant those teams permission to interview Callahan, who is under contract another season.

“We’re excited about Scott Linehan,” Garrett said. “He’s one of the best coordinators in this league and has been for a number of years. I had the good fortune of working with him in 2005 in Miami. He was our coordinator and I was the quarterback coach. I worked very closely with him and have a great deal of respect for him. His track record speaks for itself. We think he’s a great addition to our staff.”

The Dallas Cowboys are no strangers to having a passing game coordinator. In fact, Garrett said he sees this current setup as very similar to what was in place two seasons ago when Garrett called the plays and Callahan remained the OC and coached the line. Now, Linehan will be the play-caller but will work alongside.

“The roles and responsibilities will be similar to what we had a couple of years ago with Scott being in the role I was in,” Garrett explained. “As passing game coordinator, he will call the plays and work closely with Bill Callahan and the rest of the offensive staff in a role we’re comfortable with. He has a comfort level with our system and the language and terminology of our system. That transition we think will be fairly smooth. The perspective and ideas he brings, we think will be a positive thing for our team.”

While in Detroit, Linehan directed an offensive unit that finished the past three seasons ranked sixth, third, and fifth respectively in the NFL in total offense. The Lions ranked 17th in rushing as Reggie Bush had 1,006 rushing yards.

Linehan also served as head coach of the Rams from 2006-08, making him the third assistant with NFL head coaching experience along with Marinelli and Callahan.

While there is a natural perception that both Callahan and Kiffin have been demoted, yet remain on staff, Garrett said it will be his responsibility to make sure every coach is on the same page and has the same goal.

“Embracing your role is a critical piece to this,” Garrett said. ”As coaches and players, we do that all the time. We’re excited to get going and build on positive things we’ve done. You’re always trying to build chemistry on your football team. Every day is an opportunity to do that.”

In other coaching staff news, Garrett said Marinelli is expected to oversee the defensive line but Leon Lett and Ben Bloom will also work closely with that position. 

FILM ROOM BREAKDOWN: Dominance on the Texas-2 Defensive Line sets the tone

    FILM ROOM BREAKDOWN - Dominance on the Texas-2 Defensive Line - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. St. Louis Rams

    IRVING, Texas – Here are some observations from the film room at Valley Ranch:

    • After the game on Sunday, one of the game balls was awarded to Jason Hatcher for his effort in shutting down this Rams offense. There was no question that Hatcher deserved that honor but after studying the game, it really was a collective team effort across the defensive line that got that job done. DeMarcus Ware was outstanding against the Rams best offensive linemen, Jake Long. He beat and bashed Long the entire day to the point that Long was ineffective against other rushers like George Selvie and Kyle Wilber. Nick Hayden was making plays seven yards down the field tackling Tavon Austin. Edgar Jones and Jerome Long were able to chip in with some quality plays. Caesar Rayford looked comfortable playing inside at defensive tackle with Long when Hatcher and Hayden needed a break.

      Their effort and passion was relentless the entire game. Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett used various combinations in the game and all their moves came up aces. Kiffin was able to just use four man pressure in the game which allowed him to drop seven and handle the Rams skill players underneath and down the field. Where this Cowboys defensive line was most effective was when they were running games upfront with their twist packages. There was constant pressure on Sam Bradford to the point where he really didn’t have the time to look down the field for a receiver. It was a dominating day, for a group that once again had to play without Anthony Spencer but were able to get the job done.

    • Offensively, if the Cowboys were going to have any success, it would be on the shoulders of Tyron Smith and Doug Free. Of all the matchups possible in this game, how Smith and Free blocked Robert Quinn and Chris Long was truly going to tell the story. The game tape, showed that Smith was dominant and Free had not one issue against Long, matter of fact, his only issue for a brief time was with backup, Matt Conrath on a couple of cutoff blocks.

      Quinn had come into the game as a nightmare for tackles to have to deal with because of his edge pressure. Smith did a really nice job of not allowing him to get to the edge or work underneath to get inside of him. The one play that Smith allowed Quinn to make which did cause a forced fumble, was the second of the two draw plays that the Cowboys attempted on the day. The first time they ran it, Smith shoved Quinn so far up the field, that Murray did not get touched until he was already in the second level. On the second one, Quinn was able to keep his balance after the shove and he just made a nice athletic play.

      Playing against Chris Long, is the perfect type of rusher for Doug Free to face. Free tends to do a better job against defensive ends that don’t play with a great deal of power and are more interested in just getting up the field. It has been well documented that Free’s athletic ability is clearly his best trait. When he can get out of his stance, work wide and adjust, he is a much better player. When he has to face a rusher that extends his hands and just pushes on him, he has trouble sitting down. Long doesn’t play with power and that played right into Free’s hands. I thought that Free was able to play a complete game from a technique stand point as well. He never looked off balance or struggling with Long’s rush. Other than those cutoffs against Conrath, Free was in control, poised and continues to work his way back to that form that we all had observed three years ago.

    • Watching J.J. Wilcox play is a lot of fun. With Wilcox, you never know what you are going to see next. I had a gut feeling that very early in the week that he was going to make this start against the Rams and as excited I was for him, I also had my concerns. Not of the physical type but would he be able to handle all the routes that the Rams were going to throw at him.

      It was clear from the first play of the game when he filled in the box, that the physical side was going to be well and good, but there is something that we are going to keep an eye on as he plays more. As aggressive as he is attacking the ball, he is going to have to learn to come under better control to be a secure, wrap up tackler. I saw the same thing from Barry Church when he started, he would come flying forward and throw his body at the legs of the ball carrier without wrapping up. Bill Parcells use to tell us that poor tackling safeties will cost you hundreds of yards during the season. There is no question that Wilcox gets to the ball but where he can make the biggest difference to this defense, is finishing plays. Jerome Henderson and Joe Baker will work with him to get that cleaned up in his game.

      Throughout the game, Wilcox had more chances to play down but he also played some single high and then later in the game some straight two deep. He played some man coverage against Jared Cook which is no small task and when the ball went wide underneath, he was able to rally with the linebackers and drive the ball out of bounds. He played with nice awareness and there were times where when checks were made, you could see him communicating with Church or the corners. He was in outstanding position for the interception of Sam Bradford that was called back, when Hatcher struck Bradford in the head area which was the correct call.

      For his first start in the NFL, he was once again, fun to watch. He did not let his coaches or teammates down with his play. He was physical and he didn’t play like he was lost or scared. It was not perfect but it was clearly something they can work with. Paired with Barry Church in the back end, there are some nice possibilities.

    • I would continue to start Orlando Scandrick at corner and allow Morris Claiborne to come off the bench. Right now, this combination appears to be working very well. Scandrick is playing at a high level both outside and in the slot but I believe that Claiborne looks much more relaxed as well.

      It was nice to see, with what happened to Claiborne last week against the Chiefs on the pass interference call, he was able to bounce back with one of his most complete games. I thought he played with nice positioning and movement. He didn’t appear to be struggling with the routes and his reads along with his awareness was much better. There have been times where he has appeared to laboring in coverage and that might have been do to his knee soreness but there was a smoothness to his game.

      He was aggressive driving on the ball and when he had to come forward, there was no hesitation or apprehension. He did get the one call against him for pass interference late in the game and on tape, it did show that he used an arm bar to keep Chris Givens from getting up the field but again, if he doesn’t use his arm, he worked himself in position to defend the ball and that was a positive sign.

      I understand that Morris Claiborne was drafted to be a starter, but if playing Orlando Scandrick has allowed Claiborne to regain his health and confidence, these coaches need to keep that going because it has benefited both parties. There have been no reasons to take Scandrick off the field at this point and until there are issues, he needs to continue to start. There is nothing wrong with letting Morris Claiborne be that nickel back as along as this defense continues to play like they have this season.

    TRAINING CAMP ON-DEMAND: Watch the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard–In the trenches

    TRAINING CAMP ON-DEMAND - Watch the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard–In the trenches - The Boys Are Back blog

    TRAINING CAMP ON-DEMAND: In the trenches

    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

    Click HERE to watch video … Click HERE to listen to the audio


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    DALLAS’ DEFENSIVE FOOD CHAIN: Cowboys linemen will get to ‘eat first’ with new defense

    big cat - dallas cowboys leon lett - the boys are back blog

    The Dallas Cowboys’ move back to the 4-3 defense is music to Leon Lett’s ears. He’s going to get a chance to teach what he knows.

    “In a 3-4 you did more of a read-and-react. This is more of a react-on-the-run – rush the quarterback and then react to the run on the way to the quarterback,” he said last week as the Cowboys’ assistant coaches met with reporters. “Kind of the same thing I did as a football player, so I’m kind of used to it, and I’m looking forward to teaching it and coaching it.”

    Lett collected 22.5 sacks and 229 tackles in a 10-year career with the Cowboys, twice making the Pro Bowl. He played at 6-foot-6, 290 pounds.

    “I think we have players all across the board that have the instinct for that defense,” Lett said. “DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Sean Lissemore – I think all our guys can adapt and play this 4-3 scheme. They’re fast, they’re quick, they’re big, they’re athletic, and that’s what you need.”

    Lett was retained as assistant defensive line coach, and he’ll get a chance to work with respected NFL veteran Rod Marinelli, who is now in charge of the Cowboys’ defensive line.

    “We just have to get them to adjust to a different technique,” Lett said. “In a 3-4 scheme, you were a little bit more two-gap, head-up. We’re going to get them to shade on the shoulder and penetrate and get up field. So I’ve been talking to Coach Marinelli about that, and we’re looking forward to retraining the guys in that scheme.”

    Lett said it was the focus on penetrating into the backfield that made the position fun for him when he played.

    “Some guys just love to play the 3-4, head up, but the 4-3 is more about a penetrating, we-get-to-eat-first type of deal. That’s what we’re calling it. We’re at the front of the food chain.”

    COACHES ROSTER: Meet the 2013-14 Dallas Cowboys coaching staff

    There have been a number of changes in the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff over the offseason. Here’s an updated list of the assistant coaches and links for more detailed information on each of them. This page will be updated if any other changes are made.

    DALLAS COWBOYS HEAD COACH

    Jason Garrett

    Jason Garrett was named the eighth head coach in Dallas Cowboys history on January 5, 2011. Garrett, who played for or worked alongside four of his predecessors, became the first former Dallas Cowboys player to become the team’s head coach.

    DALLAS COWBOYS COACHING STAFF

    Offensive Coaches Defensive Coaches Specialty Coaches
    Jimmy Robinson
    Asst. Head Coach/Wide Receivers
    Monte Kiffin
    Defensive Coordinator
    Mike Woicik
    Strength and Conditioning
    To Be Determined
    Tight Ends/Passing Game Coord.
    Jerome Henderson
    Secondary
    Chris Boniol
    Assistant Special Teams/ Kickers
    Wade Wilson
    Quarterbacks
    Matt Eberflus
    Linebackers
    Brett Bech
    Assistant Strength and Conditioning
    Bill Callahan
    Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
    Rod Marinelli
    Defensive Line
    Rich Bisaccia

    Special Teams

    Wes Phillips
    Assistant Offensive Line
    Ben Bloom
    Quality Control/Linebackers
    Keith O’Quinn
    Off. Quality Control/Wide Receivers
    Joe Baker
    Assistant Secondary

    DEFENSIVE CONFIRMATION: Monte Kiffin verified switching defense to 4-3; his coaches set for new season

    Ex-players recall Dallas Cowboys Monte Kiffin as a football junkie - The Boys Are Back blog

    MOBILE, Ala. – The second day of Senior Bowl practices are underway, with several coaches and scouts filling up the grandstands at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

    Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett has addressed the media. It does appear the defensive coaching staff has been set.

    Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin not only confirmed what we all expected in the team will be switching over to his 4-3 scheme, but said after meeting with several candidates, the defensive coaches are locked in.

    “We’ve been trying to get our staff together and get the right players in the right place,” Kiffin said.

    The biggest change will be defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who was the Bears defensive coordinator the last three years and has worked with Kiffin in Tampa Bay. But the Cowboys are also planning to keep linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, two coaches who came with Rob Ryan from Cleveland.

    The Cowboys are also expected to retain assistant defensive backs coach Joe Baker, assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett.

    “It’s exciting,” Kiffin said Tuesday morning. “It happened really quick. We put together the staff and I think the staff is real important. The Joneses and Coach Garrett, they like certain people there they wanted me to interview. It was real good to put our heads together – Coach Garrett and myself. But there’s some real good coaches there right now. To bring in Rod Marinelli as our defensive line coach, he’s an icon.”

    As for the offensive side of the ball, there are still holes to fill. The Cowboys will need to hire coaches for the running backs, tight ends and possibly wide receivers.  

    RELATED: Jerry Jones says Cowboys won’t complete staff during Senior Bowl week

    Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he does not expect to complete the coaching staff before the Cowboys leave the Senior Bowl.

    He said the Cowboys, who have assistant coaching vacancies in at least four positions – tight end, defensive line, running backs and special teams – are interviewing this week at the all-star game but that there is no deadline.

    “No, not at all. We have no timetable pressures here,” he said after watching the South team practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, where the Senior Bowl will be played Saturday. “I don’t look for anything such as a finalization of decisions on staff while we’re here.”

    Asked about Houston Nutt’s visit to Valley Ranch last week, Jones declined to comment but promised to talk more about staff decisions later in the week.

    “It’s going to be real limited on staff because we’re not going to sum it all up for competitive reasons and negotiating reasons,” Jones said. “We just are going to let that come out as we make those decisions about adding any new staff members.”

    DALLAS COWBOYS TIDBITS: Cowboys rookie from California feels right at home

    Dallas Cowboys FB Jamize Olawale - University of North Texas UNT - The Boys Are Back blog

    Being at Cowboys training camp is like being at home for rookie fullback Jamize Olawale, who grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and went to junior college at El Camino in Torrance. He’s trying to make the team as a blocking back and on special teams. He might get a chance to showcase his running and catching ability in Monday night’s game because of injuries to Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar. But being at an NFL training camp is an eye-opening experience for any rookie. The former North Texas receiver talks about five things that make rookie life in the NFL an experience to remember.

    1 The environment. "Just getting to know all the fans, all the attention that the Cowboys get, is interesting. It’s fun."

    2 Learning how to prepare. "You bring your hard hat to work every day, as coach [Jason] Garrett says. Come to work. Have that mindset every day when you wake up."

    3 The apartment setup. "It’s nice. It’s nicer than what I stay in at home, so I have no problem with that. And they feed us well. We’re taken care of."

    4 Initiations, like carrying the veterans’ pads in after practice. "It’s not the first time. It’s cool, it’s fine. It’s part of the game, part of being a rookie. I’ll take it in stride."

    5 It’s tough. "I expected it to be hard. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. So far, Coach has been helping us get through it and prosper."

    Beasley fans

    Cole Beasley, the tiny undrafted receiver from SMU, has a ton of fans already at Cowboys training camp. And why not? He keeps making catches — and tough catches. After he went to the ground for one ball, grabbing it and holding on as he went down in the arms of cornerback Lionel Smith, a fan yelled out: "Pay attention, coaches! We need a Welker!"

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    Star glazing

    Fox Sports reporter and MMA entrepreneur Jay Glazer visited the Cowboys sideline for Friday’s practice. He has an eye for MMA talent, and he said DeMarco Murray is excellent. "He’s got great knees," Glazer said.

    Extra photographer

    Brill Garrett, the wife of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, spent practice on the sideline with her trusty camera. She’s a photography enthusiast, and collecting her own camp pictures is a tradition.

    They said it

    "If we weren’t in the system we are in, I’d probably wreck this thing trying to spend money to get players to win a Super Bowl. But that’s not the system we are in. We’ve got to do it other ways." — Jerry Jones

    Sideline eye

    Former Cowboys defensive tackle Tony Casillas got away from three days at Disneyland to make it to Friday’s practice. He liked the shape the players are in, and he said he’s down to about 240 from his playing weight of 295. But he said that’s nothing compared to how Leon Lett, coaching for the Cowboys, looks like a different person.

    Courtesy: Carlos Mendez

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