INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins | Austin “fairly” healthy
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys could be adding yet another explosive weapon to an offense that was rather dynamic on Sunday.
Miles Austin practiced for the second straight day and it appears the veteran wide receiver should be able to play Sunday night against the Redskins after missing two straight games with another hamstring injury.
“I thought he did some good things. He seemed comfortable,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “He’d been running well the last couple of days. He got through practice for the most part fairly healthy.”
The Dallas Cowboys racked up 522 offensive yards, including 506 by the pass with three different receivers going over 100 yards.
Austin suffered the injury near the end of the Cowboys’ 31-7 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sept. 22. Austin missed the last two games and all practices leading up to the week. So the fact he’s been able to practice on Wednesday and Thursday of this week is a good sign he’ll back.
In other news and notes of practice:
- Linebacker Justin Durant (groin) and defensive end Edgar Jones (groin) didn’t appear to practice in full with the team. Both players were on the field with jerseys but no helmets. After the stretching period, they both went to the side field for rehab work.
- Jason Hatcher (shoulder) and Dwayne Harris (hip) were both limited and could have the same status for Friday.
- Lance Dunbar (hamstring) was not out on the field for the media-availability part of practice.
- Joseph Randle is likely to get reps for second-team running back in Dunbar’s place. However, the Cowboys haven’t even given starter DeMarco Murray a heavy load of carries, so it’s unlikely the backup tailback will be a factor come Sunday night.
NFL Hall of Famer and former Steelers great “Mean” Joe Greene was at Thursday’s practice as a guest of Cowboys consultant Calvin Hill. Greene visited with defensive line coach Rod Marinelli for a few minutes before practice.
Regular readers already know that The Boys Are Back blog features the ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS predictions from The GREAT Robbini. Last week, our “exalted one” was pretty much dead-on with his predictions.
Last weeks win over the ‘other’ Missouri team gives us die-hard Cowboys fans (and Demarco Murray) reason to celebrate. We’ve seen the sudden emergence of a running game and a havoc causing Texas-2 defense coming into their own identity. Today’s game in San Diego should feel like a Dallas Cowboys home game with the heavy fan base in sunny Southern California. Bruised Romo should be in better shape this week. While Miles Austin sits on the bench with his hamstring, Jason Garrett will ask next-men-up Terrence Williams, Dwayne Harris, and Cole Beasley to take up the slack. In the trenches, right guard Brian Waters is expected to start … and Mackenzy Bernadeau will be suited up as backup for both guard positions. The Dallas front-four will be without Anthony Spencer for the remainder of the 2013-2014 NFL season … but, Marinelli’s hungry linemen have shown they are up to the task through the first three games.
The GREAT Robbini is psyched about the Cowboys – Chargers incoming vibe… and ready to share his prognostications that we all count on from week-to-week. Without further delay, it’s time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions. OK, here we go …
The GREAT Robbini’s – 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys week #4 predictions:
Cowboys set up shop in San Diego, Qualcomm stadium looks like ‘home away from home’
The Dallas Cowboys, on a mission to fuel up their game before hosting “unstoppable” Denver, get behind the wheel in Norv’s old town. They’ll head back to Big D, with plenty in the tank and a ‘W’ in the trunk. Expect a high octane performances from Dez, Demarco, TE group and Kiffin’s boys.
Predictions for the Texas 2 Defense …
- 3 takeaways
- DeMarcus Ware 3 sacks
- J.J. Wilcox 1 sack
- Brandon Carr INT
- Jason Hatcher 2 sacks
- 6 team sacks
- Carter/Wilcox lead tackles
- 1 San Diego Charger injured
Predictions for the offense …
- Tony Romo 300 yards, 4 TDs
- Dez Bryant 75 yards, 2 TDs
- Williams 50 yards
- Beasley 30 yards
- Jason Witten 65 yards, TD
- Gavin Escobar 30 yards, TD
- James Hanna 15 yards
- Demarco Murray TD
- Rushing committee 150 yards
- Offensive line 3 penalties
- Cowboys receive opening kick
- Offense starts game with possession
- Cowboys control time of possession
The GREAT Robbini
Remember, you read it here! The Great Robbini predictions for week #4. Leave your final score or predictions in the comment section.
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys are getting exactly what they want out of their new defensive coaching additions, while the defensive mind they let go is excelling elsewhere. Consider that a win through three weeks for both parties.
The Dallas defense resides in the top 10 in the league in sacks and takeaways led by new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, while the coordinator the Cowboys let go has shifted New Orleans’ putrid defense of last year to the No. 5 total defense in the NFL this season.
In the minds of some, former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn’t do a lousy job in Dallas last year. Fact remains, the Cowboys weren’t happy with the lack of pressure and thought they should upgrade.
The front office (Jerry Jones) stressed an emphasis on takeaways after creating just 16 all of last season. They now have seven through three games with Kiffin and Marinelli, due in large part to the havoc created by the defensive line, as the Cowboys sit atop the NFC with 13 sacks. They’re also tied for sixth in turnover differential at plus-3 with a top-10 scoring defense.
Kiffin and Marinelli insisted they didn’t need a defensive lineman in the draft to conjure the kind of pressure they needed on their defense. Even without Jay Ratliff or Anthony Spencer, they’ve been exactly right. DeMarcus Ware is back to his old form and the switch to defensive end may even help him reach the quarterback more often.
The defensive coaches continue to get elite play at defensive tackle out of Jason Hatcher, who’s tallied a sack in each of the team’s first three games, while turning Nick Hayden and George Selvie into legitimate starters.
Selvie said he feels he has a coach in Marinelli who believes in him, and that coach is getting the best out of his group. It’s obvious, and head coach Jason Garrett sees the same thing.
“He’s just an excellent football coach and teaching is a big part of that, inspiring is a big part of that, seeing the real positive traits in people and getting them into situations where they can be successful,” Garrett said. “(Marinelli) helps them be successful by how he teaches them technically, how he teaches them physically, how he teaches them emotionally.”
The Cowboys’ three interceptions may not seem like much, but that’s three times as many as they had through three weeks with Rob Ryan last season.
The colorful, boisterous defensive mind has to be a revered character in New Orleans, demonstrating his worth by changing the culture of the Saints’ defense. New Orleans allowed 440.1 yards per game and 28.4 points per game last season, and those numbers are down to 295.7 yards per game and 12.7 points per game so far.
Both sides are getting exactly what they wanted by fixing the problems of the past. It’s a small sample size, but the Cowboys and Saints are reaping every benefit they could have hoped for with their offseason defensive changes.
This should create quite a buzz (and another comparison) going into week 10 …
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JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE: 2013-14 Dallas Cowboys vs. San Diego Chargers–Injury and practice update
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media from Valley Ranch as his team continues their preparations for the San Diego Chargers. Garrett discussed:
- Miles Austin and Dwayne Harris practice update
- Rookie WR Terrance Williams development and NFL transition
- Preparing for San Diego OL injuries
- WR Cole Beasley plans in SD game
- RB Joseph Randall’s progress
- Blitz pickups for rookies, multiple fronts,
- Barry Church growing reputation
- Thoughts Safety tandem long-term
- Changes with Chargers from last year’s Norv Turner system
- Simms status
- Fake punt sequence vs. St Louis Rams last week
- NY Yankees and Dallas Cowboys connection
- Rod Marinelli’s amusing nicknames for players
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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.
IRVING, Texas – Here are some observations from the film room at Valley Ranch:
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.
Offensive Game Ball: Offensive Line
It would be real easy to hand the ball to DeMarco Murray for his effort in this game, but without those guys up front, Murray would not have had the day that he did. Murray received his share of blame for his lack of production last week against the Chiefs, but he alone should not have shouldered the criticism. This Cowboys offensive line was outstanding today both in the run and pass. Murray had more than enough room to operate and Tony Romo was hardly touched as he sat in the pocket. Head coach Jason Garrett and his offensive staff have strived for balance, and they got it today from a line that hasn’t always been given the credit that it deserves.
Defensive Game Ball: Jason Hatcher
Going into this game, the Rams offensive line was expected to have problems handling the Cowboys defensive tackles. For the third straight game, Jason Hatcher was outstanding. For a player who had questions about staying consistent in this scheme, he has more than proved himself. Hatcher played with explosive quickness and power. He was disruptive on the move and was relentless in the way he attacked the pocket. His play did not allow Rams quarterback Sam Bradford any room to step up and make a throw. Hatcher was quick to shed blocks, and he was technique-sound the entire day. His play overall caused this Rams’ offensive scheme huge issues.
Coaches Game Ball: Rod Marinelli
The Rams were going to have trouble running the ball, which meant that defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and his troops were going to have to play the majority of the game rushing the passer. Bradford put the ball up 49 times for St. Louis with an average gain of only 3.6 yards per completion. Bradford was never comfortable in the pocket, and it started on the opening series and did not end until the final whistle. Despite playing shorthanded without Anthony Spencer, Marinelli’s group put on quite a show. There was a slot blitz or two mixed in from Orlando Scandrick, but the majority of the pressure came from a four-man rush. Marinelli has always preached quickness off the snap and to get up the field as quickly as you can. He did an outstanding job of rotating his defensive line, and they rewarded him with a dominating performance against a Rams club that has some explosive offensive weapons, totally holding them in check. Today, it started up front with his guys.
IRVING, Texas – Ex-Cowboys Scout takes a look at newly-acquired defensive end Caesar Rayford from the Indianapolis Colts:
Caesar Rayford DE (6-7, 265) Rookie Washington
Games Viewed: Preseason 2013: Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns
Played as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the Colts scheme. Has a different build physically in that he is so long. On tape he looks like he has a short upper body and all legs. Extreme arm length at 36” and you see him use them to his advantage. Majority of his work was seen with his hand on the ground. Has a nice initial take off. Showed some quickness for an inside move against the Bills for a tackle for loss.
When he gets his hands inside, he can buy himself some separation. Was able to keep Justin Pugh of the Giants off his body and beat him around the corner. On the play he brought down David Carr with one hand. In the same game, he was able to get push up the field with one arm extended in the chest of guard James Brewer who is still is on the Giants active roster. Like his quickness for a player so tall. When he wants to get a jump off the line, he can do it. Was able to break down Joe Thomas of the Browns twice, which surprised me. Was able to physically hold up at the point of attack but needs to get rid of the blocker quicker as well. When he stays down, is when he does his best work. When upright, he is no good to anyone.
Will attempt to use pass rush moves as he goes. There were not too many times where he didn’t use moves. Swim and rip were his two best ones. Where he does get in trouble is if he rushes down the middle. I have seen him get push this way but the majority of the rushes that were like this, had nothing to them and he ended up stuck along the line of scrimmage. Had a sack against the Bills where he was able to counter back inside after going up the field. Able to work back to the quarterback slapping the ball out of his hand which allowed his teammate to recover for a touchdown. If he gets near the quarterback in the pocket, you see him reaching for the ball. Has beaten tackles for sacks and pressure but has also had production against tight ends and “H” backs that have tried to block him.
His effort and motor are outstanding but when he got tired, his technique really suffered. He played a ton of snaps in these games so it happened to him often. He didn’t look like the same player when he was tired. Because of his height, he doesn’t appear like he is moving well or is that fluid but there were a couple of plays where he was in space chasing the ball and he was moving well. Can see why the Colts kept him in the first place because of his production but really not a great fit in their 3-4 scheme at outside linebacker. Has a chance here as a rotational defensive end and kick blocker on special teams with his height. Can work with guys like this because of their physical traits and effort. Low risk, high reward type of player that was productive against everyone he played.
ARLINGTON, Texas – Good luck finding the end zone on the Dallas Cowboys’ starting defense.
It may just be the preseason, but the Dallas coaches’ insistence on creating turnovers and the bend but don’t break mentality appear to be in full effect, as the Cowboys’ first-team defense went its fourth straight preseason game keeping its opponent out of the end zone in Saturday’s 24-18 dress rehearsal win against the Bengals.
“We saw it enough, and now it’s finally coming to fruition as far as us going out there and making plays,” said cornerback Brandon Carr. “Today, it felt pretty good. Four turnovers, and it all came from the secondary. I guess the bar is kind of set now. We kind of know what the expectations are, and we know we can do it now. That’s all it is, is that confidence.”
The Cowboys’ defense created four turnovers Saturday in the first preseason game this year at AT&T Stadium, including one in every quarter, while the connection between Tony Romo and Dez Bryant looked as crisp as it did to end last season.
Romo finished 13-of-18 with two touchdown passes and no interceptions behind an offensive line that featured Doug Free at right guard and Jermey Parnell at right tackle against one of the stouter defensive lines in the league.
“Not everybody can make an adjustment like that, especially not in really one week,” Romo said of Free’s move from tackle to guard. “I think it’s a testament to Doug’s ability to play both those positions.”
The offense quickly established its running game and kept going back to it throughout the day, totaling 154 yards on the ground and giving Romo more time to operate as the Bengals had to account for the run and the pass.
The Cowboys were solid offensively and defensively, but still need to figure out that third phase of the game.
After the defense forced its third fumble on the opponents’ first drive in four preseason games to start the year, the offense sputtered and were forced to punt in a scoreless game with 4:02 remaining in the first quarter. Punter Chris Jones boomed one away, but the ball hit the giant video board, and the Cowboys were forced to punt again.
“As soon as I punted it, I thought it had a chance of hitting it,” Jones said. “It got up there, got up in the shadows, and I saw it flutter down. I knew it had hit.”
That turned out to be disastrous, as the Bengals’ Brandon Tate returned the re-punt for a touchdown, as the special teams continued to struggle through the preseason.
When the offense returned for their next possession, running back DeMarco Murray did not, after he coughed the ball up and Jermey Parnell recovered it the previous offensive possession.Phillip Tanner and the rest of the starting offense took the field, and Dez Bryant caught five passes on the drive, including the touchdown grab to tie the game.
Bryant finished with six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown, while Miles Austin finished the day with four catches for 59 yards and a score. All four of Austin’s catches came on third down and ended either in a first down or touchdown.
“(Austin) looks fresher,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “He looks quicker to me. He’s a hard matchup player for people because he’s big and he can play outside, but he also has quickness to play inside.”
The offense was efficient throughout the day, but the defense kept the game close throughout. The Bengals’ only points in the first half came on the special teams touchdown, as the Cowboys’ defensive starters made life tough for Cincinnati’s first-team group.
The Bengals didn’t score any points on the Cowboys’ first-team group. The next time Cincinnati scored after the kick return occurred on a field goal after the Bengals’ first-team group went against the Dallas second-teamers in the third quarter.
It helped the Cowboys’ offense that they continued getting the ball in favorable spots.
After Bryant’s touchdown in the second quarter, rookie B.W. Webb secured his first interception of the preseason, as he joined the first-team group as an extra cornerback and blanketed Mohamed Sanu the whole way. The Cowboys’ rookie draft picks have four interceptions combined so far in the preseason.
“B-Dub made a really big play in the ball game, the interception down the middle,” Garrett said. “I thought he’s responded well to really the game in Oakland, to be honest with you. That was the game where he didn’t play his best. He fumbled a punt and some other things happened, but he responded well at practice and has played well the last couple weeks.”
The Cowboys forced a three-and-out on their next defensive possession, and the Bengals’ last possession of the half went just 18 yards before the clock hit zero and the Cowboys’ first-team defense left the field.
The defensive starters were done for the day at the half, but the ability to create turnovers transferred down to the backups as well.
Safety Jeff Heath laid a massive hit on receiver Cobi Hamilton on an end around to jar the ball loose in the third quarter, allowing cornerback Micah Pellerin to secure the fumble.
“We look for those opportunities to attack the ball and get it out,” said secondary coach Jerome Henderson. “With Jeff’s play, that’s more of just a big hit causing a turnover. That wasn’t him trying to reach in and get it out. That was him just laying the wood on a guy and the ball popping out.”
That forced fumble occurred with an 11-point lead for the Cowboys, after Murray returned to the field in the second half and responded after his early fumble with a touchdown reception, in which he broke multiple tackles and used some fancy footwork to find the end zone.
“We talked to DeMarco at halftime and gave him a chance to play in the second half, and I thought he did a good job bouncing back,” Garrett said. “We always put a big emphasis on turnovers. The story of this game was the turnover ratio.”
The Cowboys’ 21 points at that point were enough.
After Cincinnati cut the Dallas lead to 21-18 in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys added three more points on a Dan Bailey field goal and secured the victory with a pick by cornerback Xavier Brewer with less than a minute remaining in the game. The secondary was responsible for the two picks, as well as both forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.
“The competition is so intense, so competitive in our secondary room that guys may miss a couple of games, and the next man up is ready,” Carr said. “He’s ready to go out there and make plays and make a name for himself. That’s what makes teams great.”
TEXAS 2 SHAKEDOWN: Dallas Cowboys defense showing potential to be better than good (Special Feature)
OAKLAND – When the 2013 team profiles and scouting reports are listed, it usually mentions key losses and additions. And on defense, the “players acquired” section will have guys like Will Allen and Justin Durant. A more updated list could include guys like George Selvie and Nick Hayden.
So it makes sense for people to have their hesitations about this defense and how good it can be.
After three weeks of training camp practice, two preseason games and really just two series from the first-team (Texas 2) defense, I’ve changed my tune about this squad. It’s early but I’ve raised my ceiling and expectations for this group.
This defense has the ability to be better than good. It could be a great defense.
And it’s not because of the additions like Durant and Allen and anyone else new to this unit. The real additions on this defense are Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli. And the impact they’ve already made is definitely noticeable.
The first-teamers didn’t play long in Friday’s 19-17 loss to the Raiders at O.co Stadium in Oakland.
It’s not just the turnovers. To me, it’s the pressure. They know how to generate a pass-rush and they’ve done it with players who don’t have the credentials like DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.
If you’ve watched one practice in Oxnard, you’ve seen D-Ware do anything he wants. He’s been the best player at camp – on either side of the ball. He’s been so good that we’ve started to have our doubts about Tyron Smith, who has lost way more battles than he’s tied. I can’t ever remember Smith actually winning one of those with Ware.
And he comes out here in Oakland and makes a nice tackle in the running game, showing this 4-3 switch shouldn’t affect him at all in that department. Ware doesn’t need a great scheme to be an All-Pro. It does appear that he’s in one again and that will only enhance his performance.
Dallas Cowboys Texas 2 defense forces Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn to fumble the ball and giving the Dallas Cowboys great field position.
Click HERE to watch short video
“Lining up at defensive end is easier. You are down in the trenches,” Ware said in a halftime quote Friday night. “There is no difference than playing outside linebacker, you are out wide, but when you are in the six technique, there are a lot more techniques you have to work on. But I felt like I did really well for the first game.”
What I like about this defense is how aggressive they’ve been already – and there’s a combined five Pro Bowls that hasn’t even been out there. Anthony Spencer is better than Selvie. Jay Ratliff is better than Nick Hayden. If and when those guys return for the start of the regular season, the defense will be even more dynamic.
Spencer is such a tough matchup for opposing linemen because he plays with uncanny technique. That’s part of his game that has really improved over the last few years. In this scheme, he might be even better, especially with the amount of attention that must be placed on Ware’s side.
If Ratliff can come back soon and provide a 1-2 punch with Hatcher, this really can be an explosive front-four with a healthy rotation of guys like Kyle Wilber, Ben Bass, Selvie, Hayden and Sean Lissemore. I’m not sure all nine will make the team and/or be available on game days, but it’s a solid group from top to bottom. And it has the potential to be even better because of the scheme.
But what I really like about this defense isn’t just the front four. It’s the ability to get pass rush from the linebackers. If, and it’s the second-biggest “if-he-can-stay-healthy moniker on this team behind DeMarco Murray, but if Sean Lee can stay healthy, he’ll be an absolute star. He’s got everything going for him, except the fact he hasn’t played a season from start to finish.
If that can happen for him, Sean Lee will be considered one of the NFL’s best linebackers, possibly even in the same category with a guy like Patrick Willis in San Francisco. Yeah, I know what I just did – comparing Lee to a perennial Pro Bowler such as Willis. Again, the caveat is Lee must stay healthy – something he has never done. But that’s literally how good he can be.
I mean, we all can see that. His instincts are off the chart. And you put him a defense like this, he can be every bit as good as Hardy Nickerson was in Tampa Bay. Now can he be Urlacher-good? That’s a stretch but it’s a nice goal for a player like Lee.
Now, if you really go back and dissect that sack play he had against the Raiders Friday night, Lee still got some help from his good friend Ware. That’s why it’s so important to have a complete superstar like D-Ware in the lineup. We all saw Lee make the hit. But it was Ware’s rush inside that forced the line to adjust. If there’s anyone that can’t be unblocked on a play, it’s Ware. But his hard rush inside freed up Lee to make the hit.
You’ll see Lee in the backfield on play. And 25 yards down the field in pass coverage on the next. This middle linebacker position isn’t for everyone. You’ve got to be good enough at both to play the run and the pass like Lee has shown. He’s a special player and like Ware, has the chance to thrive in this scheme.
Dallas Cowboys Texas 2 defensive back J.J. Wilcox picks off Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor for a Dallas Cowboys touchback.
Click HERE to watch short video
It’s not just about the players, but takeaways, too.
The turnovers are evident. I guess they were always stressed in the past but not like this. The coaches talk about turnovers in the meeting rooms and then coming out of the meetings there is a football on display that defenders must grab. It’s just always on the mind and it’s starting to translate to the field.
On the second-quarter drive where the second-teamers were gashed for about eight straight players, leaving J.J. Wilcox to make every tackle, they still find a way to tighten it up. Wilcox finished off the drive with a pick in the end zone.
Last week, one of the rookie draft picks scored a touchdown on an interception. This week, they saved a touchdown by an interception.
All in all, I’m just getting these vibes the defense will be much better than people think.
And this is, in no way, a knee-jerk reaction from the game. In fact, I told some of my colleagues this idea and was just hoping the defense would hold its own in the one or two drives from the starters.
They did that perfectly.
It’s early for sure. The defense has played the Dolphins and the Raiders. I get that. Ryan Tanneyhill and Matt Flynn are not exactly the NFL’s elite. So it’ll get better of course.
But the potential of this defense, at least from this perspective, is a squad that can be much better than good.
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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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Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media during his daily press conference in Oxnard, California. Garrett discussed:
- Anthony Spencer’s upcoming surgery,
- DeMarcus Ware impact with teammates,
- player experimentation with the new Kiffin defense,
- Jason Hatcher fit in the 4-3 scheme,
- Jason Witten leadership,
- Witten fighting through injury early last season,
- Kyle Wilbur transition to defensive end,
- Dez Bryant’s attitude and maturity,
- respect that Dez is drawing from NFL defensive coordinators,
- Bryant’s determination to play with broken finger last season,
- importance of spreading the ball around on offense,
- evaluation and changes related to last season’s outcome,
- rule changes regarding helmet contact,
- Know-and-know-you-know expression,
- creating competitive situations, philosophy,
- embracing change and chemistry regarding new coaches,
- Gavin Escobar key to success,
- inside information on today’s activity from training camp, and
- how the Dallas Cowboys 2013-2014 roster is shaping up.
Note: Today was the first day that players practiced with pads.
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It’s expected to be 69 degrees when the Cowboys reach Oxnard, Calif., Friday. The team has a new defensive scheme and offensive play caller. Before training camp breaks Aug. 16, the Cowboys will practice 38 times to help determine the fate of the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys.
Let’s examine the Dallas Cowboys most pressing questions …
OFFENSIVE LINE: The Cowboys need dramatic improvement on the offensive line to break away from two consecutive 8-8 seasons. Left tackle Tyron Smith has a chance to be dominant. He is strong, persistent and determined to get better. He has Pro Bowl potential. Right tackle Doug Free’s 2012 performance led to sharing time with Jermey Parnell. Free took a pay cut to remain with the team. The interior of the line will receive the most attention. It’s possible that first-round pick Travis Frederick will anchor the center position. If Frederick lives up to his potential, a strong camp could land Phil Costa a starting job at guard in addition to backup center. The battle at the two guard spots will be most intense. Left guard Nate Livings is solid. Right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau finished strong after a slow start in 2012, but he’s missed the last two off-season programs with injuries. Ron Leary will also challenge for one of the starting jobs at guard.
DEFENSIVE SHIFT: Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli were hired to install a 4-3 scheme that should produce more turnovers. The scheme is relatively simple compared with what defensive coordinator Rob Ryan asked his players to execute the last two seasons. But to work, the team must avoid the injuries that devastated the defense in 2012. Cowboys officials have said consistently they expect the players to make the transition to a new scheme. When it comes to defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, there is an expectation those players will shine even more. Linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer will now be undersized defensive ends. That’s fine if the Cowboys have a lot of size in the interior of the line, but they don’t. While it’s true Ware and Spencer will be closer to the quarterback and will get to rush more, it’s also true they will be in more traffic at the line of scrimmage. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne were solid last season in Ryan’s 3-4 scheme. This year they’ll have to adapt to the 4-3 coverage’s. The safety position is far from settled coming into camp this season. The team has five candidates vying for those starting jobs and rotations.
PLAYCALL MECHANICS: Jason Garrett has called the offensive plays for this franchise since 2007. He’s turned those duties over to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. Whether he did this willingly or grudgingly is no longer relevant. What matters is how Garrett, Callahan and the rest of the offensive coaching staff execute this passing of the play sheet. Bill Callahan will likely be more persistent with the run game than Garrett. A commitment to run the ball more and an expected increase in packages that call for more two-tight end sets should help when the team is inside the shadow of the goalposts. The players will get a feel for what Callahan likes during this camp. The staff will also have five preseason games to work out the mechanics of how those plays will be delivered.
ON THE RISE: Dez Bryant entered his first two training camps as a prodigy in search of maturity with a need to refine his technique and consistency. The perception of Bryant entering this training camp is different. He is the team’s top receiver. Anything short of 100 receptions and a Pro Bowl would be considered a letdown. If Bryant’s dramatic improvement continues, he will be one of the league’s elite WRs in 2013.
THE ROMO FACTOR: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is convinced Tony Romo is the quarterback to lead his franchise back to the Super Bowl. A six-year, $108 million extension makes that clear. The highest-paid player in Cowboys history must now deliver. Romo has been given more input than ever before. He helped with the installation of the offense this off-season and will have a greater voice in the weekly game plan. “I don’t like being an average football team,” Romo said.
DALLAS COWBOYS TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE
|July 20||Training camp – Oxnard, CA – Click HERE for schedule|
|July 21-24||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 6 pm Practice|
|July 25||Players day off, no practice|
|July 26||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 6 pm Practice|
|July 27||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 7:15 pm Practice|
|July 28||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 4:30 pm Scrimmage|
|July 29-30||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 6 pm Practice|
|July 31||Players day off, no practice|
|Aug 1||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 6 pm Practice Military Appreciation Day|
|Aug 2||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 7:15 pm Practice|
|Aug 3||Walk-through, travel to Canton, Ohio|
|Aug. 4||Hall of Fame Game – Cowboys vs. Dolphins (7 p.m.) – Canton, OH|
|Aug 5||Players day off, no practice|
|Aug 6||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 6 pm Practice Military Appreciation Day|
|Aug 7||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 6 pm Practice|
|Aug 8||12:30 p.m.: Walk-through, team travel to Oakland|
|Aug. 9||Preseason Game 2 – Dallas Cowboys at Oakland (9 pm)|
|Aug 10||Players day off, no practice|
|Aug 11||7:15 pm Practice|
|Aug 12||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 6 pm Practice First Responders Appreciation Day|
|Aug 13||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 6 pm Practice Military Appreciation Day|
|Aug 14||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 6 pm Practice (closed to public)|
|Aug 15||12:30 Walk-through; 2 pm Garrett news conference; 7:15 pm Practice|
|Aug 16||Walk-through, break training camp, travel to Phoenix|
(Note: Walk-through practices and news conferences are not open to the public)
IRVING, Texas – The rooms along the hallway inside the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch practice facility are labeled the way you would think they would be labeled: tight ends, offensive line and so on. The defensive line used to be there.
Rod Marinelli changed it to Rushmen.
“It’s what we have to do, OK,” said Marinelli, the Cowboys defensive line coach. “It’s something in the four-man front that what you try to identify a position or men the No. 1 thing they’ve got to be able to do, and that it’s very clear.”
In the 3-4 scheme the Cowboys ran from 2005-12, the defensive line was not hugely responsible for the pass rush, though Jay Ratliff had 7 1/2 and six sacks in 2008-09 from his nose tackle spot. In the 4-3 Texas 2 scheme the Dallas Cowboys will run this year, the pressure on the quarterback has to come from the defensive line.
DeMarcus Ware is one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL. Anthony Spencer had a career-high 11 sacks in 2012 and was named to the Pro Bowl. The Cowboys do not believe their transitions from outside linebacker to defensive end will be difficult.
Ratliff, however, has seen his sack total decline every year for the last five years. Jason Hatcher has never had more than 4 1/2 sacks in a season. Sean Lissemore and Tyrone Crawford will have to get to the passer more than they did last year, too.
The new sign is more of an attitude check.
“It’s all part of what we are,” Marinelli said. “I make sure we understand it and we go on from there.”
PODCAST: Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what he saw at the Cowboys’ rookie minicamp and how he helped Rod Marinelli on the defensive side of the ball.
Far from a splash, but the club did re-sign linebacker Ernie Sims to a one-year deal for the league minimum, according to Dallas Cowboys VP Stephen Jones.
Sims, a former first-round pick of the Lions back in 2006, joined the Cowboys in midseason on Oct. 24 and played in 10 games, starting six.
He finished the year with 42 tackles and one sack. He had two straight games of seven tackles each against Washington and Philadelphia. But concussion issues plagued him for two straight games down the stretch.
Sims is likely to compete for the starting post at strong-side outside linebacker with Alex Albright and Kyle Wilber and anyone else the team acquires in the draft or possibly free agency, but it sounds like Jones is comfortable with the group he has.
“At that spot it’d be Wilber, also we’ve got Albright that’ll try that spot out, and then we’ve got Ernie now,” Jones said. “We think we’re pretty good.”
Sims was the ninth overall player taken in the 2006 draft out of the Lions, who were then coached by Rod Marinelli, who is now the Cowboys’ defensive line coach. Sims played in all 16 games during his first pro season, registering 124 tackles with the Lions.
He played three years in Detroit but his career never turned the corner as the Lions traded him to Philadelphia for the 2010 season. He spent one year with the Colts in 2011 before being out of football until he joined the Cowboys last season.
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.”
NO LOVIE IN CHICAGO: Rod Marinelli gave up a chance to be Bears defensive coordinator to reunite with Monte Kiffin
Monte Kiffin’s first hire when he arrived in Dallas was Rob Marinelli as his defensive line coach. The two are reunited after a seven-year separation to try to return glory to the Cowboys.
Kiffin and Marinelli were together 10 seasons in Tampa. During their time there, the Bucs defense was in the top 10 in points allowed every year and in the top 10 in yards allowed in all but their first season of 2006 when Tampa ranked 11th. The Bucs went 89-71 from 1996-2005, allowing an average of 281.4 yards and 16.7 points per game. They generated an average of 32 turnovers a season.
“I think what we did there, and a lot of other guys were there with us, [gave us] a bond and… a belief [in the system],” Marinelli said. “There are things maybe you do differently here and there over the course of the year. But that foundation, the fundamentals of what we do, is the core belief for us. That kind of unites us. That’s why I wanted to be a part of this and be back with him.”
Marinelli left the Bucs in 2006 to become head coach of the Detroit Lions. He lasted only three seasons, going 10-38. He spent the past three seasons as defensive coordinator in Chicago, working for Lovie Smith, who was the Bucs linebackers coach from 1996-2000.
The Bears wanted to retain Marinelli as defensive coordinator, but he chose to leave.
“There’s no doubt [it was hard to leave],” Marinelli said. “But my No. 1 relationship is with Lovie Smith. Yeah, he’s probably one of my best friends in life, and I believe in him and I went there because of him and it’s not the right place for me without him.”
Marinelli: Coaching With A Sense Of Urgency (Click HERE to watch)
Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli speaks about his principles on defense and what he hopes to bring to the Cowboys.
RELATED: When One Friend Was Ousted, Marinelli Joined Another
IRVING, Texas – Most people would consider a move from defensive coordinator to defensive line coach a demotion. Rod Marinelli isn’t one of those people.
The Cowboys’ defensive line coach gladly accepted his new position in Dallas. The title wasn’t as important as being around coaches that shared a similar knowledge and passion for the game. He has that in Dallas with Monte Kiffin.
CARRYING THE TORCH: Monte Kiffin says Cowboys organization ‘reeks with tradition’, he and Marinelli soaked it in
Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli made sure they walked into Valley Ranch the right way -– by soaking it all in.
“You walk through this, I mean, it just reeks with tradition here,” Kiffin said Thursday as he met with reporters at Valley Ranch for the first time since being named the team’s new defensive coordinator, and since bringing along former colleague Rod Marinelli to be defensive line coach.
“And you see all these pictures. And Rod Marinelli came in and we were so – we just went out to the front and walked … we just pretended we were coming in for the first time,” Kiffin said. “I said, ‘You’ve got to see this, Rod.’ We went outside and walked back in. I said, ‘Look at this.’ ”
Marinelli said he saw plenty of history up close in Chicago, too, as defensive coordinator with the Bears.
“I just love the history of the game of football,” he said. “I was in Chicago. The history is there. Then, you come here and wow, the history is fabulous. It’s something as a coach you’ve got to relate back to the players, how fortunate we are to be where we are, and there is a history here. We’ve got to understand that and there are standards we’ve got to match up to.”
Kiffin also appreciates NFL history, so he had an idea what it meant to join the Cowboys, one of the most followed teams in the NFL. But he said it was confirmed to him without a doubt when he went to pick up his wife at the airport just a few days after he got into town.
“I’m flipping around the radio stations, and it isn’t just like sports talk, or this or that, it’s the Dallas Cowboys,” he said. “Believe it or not, I hit a button, hit another, and they are still talking Dallas Cowboys. But anyway, you are all fired up down here. It is what it is. That’s why it’s the Dallas Cowboys. That’s why it’s the dream team. I’m just a young pup, or whatever, but you heard about the Dallas Cowboys back in those days.”
Kiffin: I’m Seventy-Two Going On Fifty-Two (Click HERE to play)
Monte Kiffin talks about his excitement in joining the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, and what his plans for the defense are going forward.
While he was able to do that, the focus shifted quickly to the issue of play-calling and the possible change next season involving Bill Callahan’s role on the sidelines.
Whether or not Callahan’s situation will be different, many faces surrounding him certainly will be.
Garrett shared some stories about the new coaches, including his involvement with the former Buccaneers assistants Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and Rich Bisaccia when Garrett played for Tampa Bay in 2004.
Here’s a short briefing from Garrett on each of his new assistants, including Wes Phillips who has been here for six seasons but is now the new tight ends coach.
Garrett on defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin: Early on, I think he was on to me because every day
after practice I would walk up to him and ask him a football question. He’s a very generous and gracious guy. I learned not only from watching him and how he handled himself and meetings, but just being around him. He’s very gracious and generous. We developed a relationship back then. My respect level for him is really off the charts. We’re fortunate to have him here to coordinate this defense. He’s done it better than anyone else has.
Garrett on defensive line coach Rod Marinelli: He’s one of those guys who talks about the greatness of
the game of football. He talks about preparing the right way. There’s great honor about playing and coaching this game and doing it the right way. The way he conducted himself that year I was around him, was really, really impressive to me. As impressive as a football coach as I’ve ever been around.
Garrett on special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia: He’s been one of the premier teams guys in the league. He just has an infectious personality. It’s particularly important for a special teams coach.
He’s got a great demeanor. The players play as hard for him as I’ve ever seen players play for any coach. He’s a great teacher, loves the game. He’ll be a great resource for us. He’ll make this team better.
Garrett on wide receiver coach Derek Dooley: When I was a player here in the 90’s, he was coaching receivers at SMU. Our relationship goes back that far. We coached together on Nick Saban’s staff with the Dolphins in 2005-06. We’ve known each other well. He played receiver at Virginia and has a great receiver background. He and I know each other well. He knows our system and I think that transition will be really good for us.
Garrett on tight end coach Wes Phillips: He’s really someone who is my right-hand man. We spent some time together putting the offense in a number of years ago. He’s really been a great asset and resource for me. Wes was a quarterback himself and coached receivers earlier in his career.
Garrett on running back coach Gary Brown: He’s really a guy I have a tremendous amount of respect for. I’ve known him for afar and competed against him. This is really a football guy. I’m excited about him. Often times, guys that play in the NFL don’t have a willingness to do what’s necessary to coach at this level. He’s a really bright guy. He’s someone who is a really, really good teacher. I know him the least of the guys we hired but I might be as excited about him as anybody else.
Garrett on asst. offensive line coach Frank Pollack: Frank played for Bill Callahan at Northern Arizona in the late 80’s and they go way back. Some of the contributions he can make, along with his relationship with Bill, can make us a really good football team.
Editors comment: As you know, as Dallas Cowboys fans, we are in the offseason ‘dead zone’ period between the Super Bowl and the NFL Combine (and subsequent NFL Draft). This time of year is always a letdown for those of us with NFL (and particularly Dallas Cowboys) fever. Like you, I’m constantly in search of relevant news and information about America’s Team from leading sports authorities and trusted insiders. Today, Jason Garrett spent nearly an hour discussing a myriad of subjects regarding the evolution of the team going into the 2013-2014 season. I strongly advise you to listen to the video below. Over 50 articles (and speculation) have been published based on this press conference. As you would expect (and appreciate), there are a wide range of topics covered, including:
- Offseason coaching changes and insight
- Offensive delegation and evolution since 2010
- Advantages of returning to the 4-3 defense
- Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli defensive philosophy
- Upcoming play-calling changes and mechanics
- Anticipated turnovers and the game impact
- Fitting Dallas’ top-tier CBs into the new 4-3 scheme
- Jay Ratliff and Josh Brent legal issues
- Bill Callahan and Jimmy Robinson’s influence and role
- Ongoing collaborative relationship with Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones
Take the time to listen to the actual press conference and you’ll learn what changes are in store and what went into the decision-making process. Feed the fever!
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media after a flurry of offseason coaching moves.
Editors note: The new coaches will have a press conference with the Dallas media on Thursday, February 14th at 11:00 am. The Boys Are Back blog will provide a post and link to that event when it becomes available.
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IRVING, Texas – Monte Kiffin remembers well the chain of events that allowed then-USC defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to join forces with him in Tampa Bay, long before the duo would rejoin paths in Dallas.
Kiffin became the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator in 1996, where he led a group chocked full of future NFL head coaches, including then-position coaches Lovie Smith and Herm Edwards.
“That’s a pretty good staff to start with,” Kiffin said.
Kiffin, head coach Tony Dungy, Smith and Edwards gathered with general manager Rich McKay as they were putting their cast together. They heard about a talented defensive line coach on John Robinson’s staff at Southern California and decided to investigate.
“We went out and interviewed him,” Kiffin said. “Coach Dungy really liked him, so he had me interview him at the combine after he hired me, and we just hit it off. The rest is history. He was a special guy. That staff we hired with Herm Edwards as the secondary coach, he’d come from Kansas City, but Lovie was a college coach from Ohio State. We all just came together, put it all together, and went on from there.”
Marinelli stayed with the staff in Tampa Bay for 10 seasons as the defensive line coach from 1996-2005, also picking up the title of assistant head coach in 2002. The all-star staff led one of the premier defenses in the league throughout that span, finishing in the top 10 in total defense nine times in that 10-year span.
They also finished as the league’s top defense twice, including in 2002, when the Bucs would go on to win the Super Bowl, sacking Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon five times and picking off five passes in that game. Tampa Bay ranked in the top 10 in sacks five different seasons during Marinelli’s tenure as line coach.
“Rod’s an icon,” Kiffin said. “He’s something else. Everybody will see it. He’s tremendous. We’ve been together 10 years, and then he went to Chicago and did a great job with Lovie.”
That transition from Tampa Bay to Chicago didn’t happen immediately. Marinelli spent three trying years as the head coach in Detroit, compiling a 10-38 record in that span. But Marinelli soon returned to a role on defense he’d always excelled at, teaming up again with Smith on the Bears.
He coached Chicago’s defensive line and served as an assistant coach in 2009 before becoming the Bears’ defensive coordinator the next three seasons, helping guide one of the most revered defenses in the league the last few years.
Chicago led the league with 24 interceptions and also ranked in the top 10 in sacks and forced fumbles in 2012, while finishing with the league’s No. 5 total defense. Four different Bears players finished with at least six sacks, led by Julius Peppers’ 11.5.
Marinelli resigned from his post in Chicago after the Bears let Smith go at the end of the season. It didn’t take long for him to fly down to Dallas to interview with the Cowboys’ staff, including owner Jerry Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones and head coach Jason Garrett.
Kiffin was ecstatic when he found out he’d be able to work with Marinelli again for the first time since 2005.
“It was really special,” Kiffin said. “He came down and had an opportunity to go a lot of places. When he interviewed down there, he really liked Mr. Jones and Stephen, and of course the head coach, Coach Garrett. They all hit it off, so we’re pretty fired up.”
Now the process begins for the “Tampa 2” masterminds to turn a 3-4 defense into a 4-3 defense they’d perfected in Tampa Bay.
“Coaching is teaching to get your players better,” Kiffin said. “The first rule of getting better is show up. When you show up, you better get coached. So that’s our job. It’s like a teacher. If you’re a bad teacher, it’s not going to be stimulating. But you show up here, you’re going to get better.”
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 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|
Asst. Head Coach/Wide Receivers
Strength and Conditioning
|To Be Determined
Tight Ends/Passing Game Coord.
Assistant Special Teams/ Kickers
Assistant Strength and Conditioning
Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
Assistant Offensive Line
Off. Quality Control/Wide Receivers
DEFENSIVE CONFIRMATION: Monte Kiffin verified switching defense to 4-3; his coaches set for new season
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.”
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.”
The Tampa 2 is the defensive strategy popularized by (and thus named after) the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the mid 1990s-early 2000s. The Tampa 2 is typically employed out of a 4-3 defensive alignment, which consists of four linemen, three linebackers, two cornerbacks, and two safeties. The defense is similar to a Cover 2 defense, except the middle linebacker drops into a deep middle coverage for a Cover 3 when he reads a pass play.
The term rose to popularity due to the execution of this defensive scheme by then-head coach Tony Dungy and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
The roots of the Tampa 2 system actually are in the Steel Curtain days of Pittsburgh football. “My philosophy is really out of the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers playbook,” said Dungy during media interviews while at Super Bowl XLI. “That is why I have to laugh when I hear ‘Tampa 2′. Chuck Noll and Bud Carson — that is where it came from, I changed very little.” Lovie Smith mentions having played the system in junior high school during the 1970s, though Carson introduced the idea of moving the middle linebacker into coverage. Carson’s system became especially effective with the Steelers’ addition of aggressive and athletic middle linebacker Jack Lambert.
During the 2005 NFL season, the Buccaneers, under defensive coordinator Kiffin, ranked first in the league in fewest total yards allowed, Smith’s Bears ranked number two, and Dungy’s Colts ranked eleventh. By 2006, the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, and Detroit Lions had also adopted the defense.
The scheme is known for its simple format, speed, and the aggressive mentality of its players. Tampa 2 teams are known as gang tacklers with tremendous team speed, and practice to always run to the ball. It also requires a hard hitting secondary to cause turnovers.
Tampa 2 description
The personnel used in the Tampa 2 are specific in position and required abilities. All positions in this defense place a premium on speed, and often the result is that they are all undersized by league standards. The defensive linemen in this scheme have to be quick and agile enough to create pressure on the quarterback without the aid of a blitz from either the linebackers or the secondary, with the defensive tackle in the nose position having above-average tackling skills to help stop runs.
The three linebackers, two cornerbacks and two safeties are responsible for covering the middle of the field. The outside linebackers’ general zone is between the cornerbacks, covering the area of the field from the line of scrimmage to 10 yards back. The middle linebacker must have better-than-average speed, and additional skills to be able to read the play and either maintain his central position to help the outside linebackers cover short passes, drop behind the linebackers in coverage and protect the zone of the field behind the outside linebackers from 11-20 yards out, or run up to the line of scrimmage to help assist in stopping the runs. “It takes a special linebacker to do that, a guy with speed,” says Pete Prisco, senior NFL writer for CBSSports.com.The cornerbacks protect the sidelines of the field from the line of scrimmage to anywhere between 15-20 yards out. According to Prisco, they “don’t have to be great man-to-man cover players, but they have to be guys who can tackle.” An additional requirement for all of Dungy’s linebackers and cornerbacks is to be above-average tacklers, as they are usually the primary tacklers in the defense.
The two safeties are responsible for covering their respective halves of the field from 20 yards out and more. The safeties in the system are expected to be above-average cover men with the ability to break up passes, but each safety also is expected to have additional specific skills. The strong safeties, while not expected to be great tacklers, are expected to be hard hitters. The hard hitting strong safety protects the middle of the field from being exploited by small, fast receivers, and running backs on wheel route. The free safety will be called upon to do one of two things in certain situations: either blitz the quarterback, requiring him to have the skills necessary to beat a blocking halfback or fullback, or to assume the coverage zone left by a blitzing cornerback.
The Tampa 2 is particularly effective against teams who are playing with a lead, theoretically because it limits big plays. It forces offenses to be patient and to settle for short gains and time-consuming drives. This may be due to the nature of the “bend-but-don’t-break” 2-deep zone coverage scheme and responsibilities safeties play in the Tampa 2.
Teams that have been successful against this defense have managed to run the ball up the middle past the defensive tackles, or throw passes in the seams between the outside linebackers and the cornerbacks (often the most effective receiver against a Tampa 2 defense is a tight end, since they often line up against this seam). Other tactics that have shown to be effective are misdirection plays that take advantage of the defensive speed and rely on the defense ‘over-running’ the play (such as the middle linebacker rushing to the line of scrimmage on a play-action pass), or overloading the safeties by having multiple receivers running deep routes, creating more targets in a zone than defenders. Recently, some teams have also been able to exploit the seam between the cornerbacks and the safeties, when the quarterback can throw a pass to a receiver in that seam faster than the safety can rush up to close it and cover the receiver. A recent trend is for teams to send a receiver up the middle, creating a mismatch against the linebacker in coverage. The Tampa 2 means that offenses are now finding it effective to exploit the deep middle, where the safeties have to cover the most ground.
Tampa 2 run defense
To defend running plays, the Tampa 2 is a single gap defense where each player is responsible to defend his own gap. The assigned gap changes with game conditions and personnel.
Typically this style of defense utilizes smaller but faster linemen and linebackers with above average speed. Also, the defensive backs must be above average hitters.
The key theme in stopping the run from a Tampa 2 is directing traffic to the weak-side linebacker. It is therefore necessary to have a skilled tackler at the WLB position.
BREAK DOWN: BASIC COVERAGES EXPLAINED
Cover 0 is a strict man-to-man alignment where each defensive back covers one receiver.
Advantages: Cover 0 is an aggressive scheme that allows for numerous blitz packages, as it’s easier for players to drop off their coverage and rush the quarterback.
Disadvantages: The main disadvantage of Cover 0 is that there is no “help over the top” – if a wide receiver “beats” (runs past) his defender, there is no one left in the secondary who can make up the coverage on the receiver, which could result in an easy pass completion and possible touchdown.
Cover One is a man-to-man coverage for all the defensive backs except for one player (usually a safety) who is not assigned a man to cover but rather plays deep and reacts to the development of the play. Often the safety will remain in a pass coverage position and play a zone defense by guarding the middle of the secondary, reacting to runs or completed passes and double-teaming a receiver if needed.
In a traditional Cover 1, the free safety plays deep and all of the other defenders lock in man coverage to an assigned player for the duration of the play. Essentially, during the pre-snap read, each defender identifies the coverage responsibilities and does not change the assignment. Some teams play a variant of the Cover 1 called Cover 7. In Cover 7, the free safety still plays deep, but the underneath coverage is much more flexible and the defenders switch assignments as the play develops in an attempt to improve defensive positions to make a play on the ball. Examples of these switches include double covering a certain receiver and using defensive help to undercut a route to block a throwing lane.
Advantages: Cover 1 schemes are usually very aggressive, preferring to proactively disrupt the offense by giving the quarterback little time to make a decision while collapsing the pocket quickly. This is the main advantage of Cover 1 schemes – the ability to blitz from various pre-snap formations while engaging in complex man-to-man coverage schemes post-snap. For example, a safety may blitz while a cornerback is locked in man coverage with a receiver. Or the cornerback may blitz with the safety rotating into man coverage on the receiver post-snap.
Disadvantages: The main weakness of the Cover 1 scheme is that there is only one deep defender that must cover a large amount of field and provide help on any deep threats. Offenses can attack Cover 1 schemes by sending two receivers on deep routes, provided that the quarterback has enough time for his receivers to get open. The deep defender must decide which receiver to help out on, leaving the other in man coverage which may be a mismatch.
A secondary weakness is inherent in its design: the use of man coverage opens up yards after catch lanes. Man coverage is attacked by offenses in various ways that try to isolate their best athletes on defenders by passing them the ball quickly before the defender can react or designing plays that clear defenders from certain areas thus opening yards after catch lanes.
In traditional Cover 2 schemes, the free safety (FS) and strong safety (SS) have deep coverage responsibilities, each guarding half of the field.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, and Detroit Lions all run or have run a variant of this defense called the Tampa 2. In the Tampa 2 defense, a third player (usually the middle linebacker) plays a middle zone, guarding an area closer to the line of scrimmage than the safeties but farther out from typical “underneath” pass coverages. The Tampa 2 defense actually originated, at least in its earliest variant, with the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 1970s.
Cover 2 can be run from any seven-man defensive front such as the 3-4 and the 4-3 defenses. Various kinds of “underneath” coverages played by cornerbacks and linebackers may also be implemented. For example, “Cover 2 Man” means the two safeties have deep coverage responsibility while the cornerbacks and linebackers follow their offensive assignment in one-on-one coverage. The San Diego Chargers inherited a base Cover 2 Man 3-4 from former coach Wade Phillips. Cover 2 can also be paired with underneath zone schemes: “Cover 2 Zone” refers to two safeties with deep coverage responsibility, but now the cornerbacks and linebackers drop into specific coverage zones where they defend passes only in their assigned area.
In cover 2 the cornerbacks are considered to be “hard” corners, meaning that they have increased run stopping responsibilities and generally defend against shorter passes, although if two receivers run a deep route on a certain side of the field, that side’s corner has deep coverage responsibility as well. It also relies heavily on the “Mike” (Middle) linebacker’s ability to quickly drop deep downfield into pass coverage when he reads a pass.
A variant of cover two is the Inverted Cover 2, in which either right before or after the snap the corners “bail” out while the safeties come up – in effect switching responsibilities. This strategy may be employed to trick a quarterback who has not correctly interpreted the shift. The main drawback is that the middle of the field is left open, a disadvantage that allowed Larry Fitzgerald to score a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII against the Steelers.
Advantages: The advantage of cover 2 is that it provides great versatility to the defense as the corners can play run, short pass, and deep pass with the confidence that they have support from two deep safeties.
Disadvantages: The main weakness of the Cover 2 shell occurs in the middle of the field between the safeties. At the snap of the ball, many times the safeties will move toward the sidelines in order to cover any long passes to quick wide receivers. This movement creates a natural hole between the safeties that can be attacked. By sending a receiver (usually a tight end) into the hole, the offense forces the safety to make a decision: play the vulnerable hole in the middle of the field or help out on the wide receiver. The quarterback reads the safety’s decision and decides on the best matchup (i.e. which mismatch is better: tight end vs. safety or wide receiver vs. cornerback).
Another disadvantage of Cover 2 is that it leaves only seven men in the “box” (the area near the ball at the snap) to defend against the run. In contrast Cover 1 and Cover 3 usually leave eight men in the box.
A potential problem with the Cover 2 is that defensive pressure on the Quarterback must be provided nearly exclusively by the front linemen as all other defenders are involved in pass coverage. If the defensive linemen do not provide adequate pressure on the Quarterback, the offense is afforded plenty of time to create and exploit passing opportunities. Blitzing in the Cover 2 often creates greater areas of weakness in the defense than other coverages. Thus, unsuccessful blitzes can prove to be more productive for the offense than in other schemes.
In cover 3, the two corners and free safety each have responsibility for a deep third of the field, while the strong safety plays like a linebacker. This coverage is generally considered to be a run stopping defense as it focuses on preventing big pass plays and stopping the run while giving up short passes.
On the snap, the CBs work for depth, backpedaling into their assigned zone. One safety moves toward the center of the field. The other safety is free to rotate into the flat area (about 2-4 yards beyond the line of scrimmage), provide pass coverage help, or blitz.
Advantages: One of the biggest benefits of the cover 3 coverage scheme is the ability to walk the strong safety up into the box with minimal to no changes in the coverage due to the pre-snap center field position of the free safety. This enables the defense to play both man and zone coverage out of an 8 man front while cover 2 schemes allow only for man coverage with 7 man fronts.
Disadvantages: Cover 3 schemes are susceptible to short, timed passes to the outside due to the hard drop of both cornerbacks. This puts pressure on the outside linebackers to react to pass plays and get into their drop quickly if they need to cover a receiver.
Another disadvantage of cover 3 schemes is they are relatively easy to diagnose by opposing quarterbacks. Because of this, teams will often employ slight wrinkles in their coverage to confuse offenses. An example of this includes employing man coverage on one side and zone on another or swapping coverage zones between defenders.
Cover 4 (Prevent Defense)
Cover 4 refers to four deep defenders, each guarding one-fourth of the deep zone. Cover 4 schemes are usually used to defend against deep passes. (i.e., Prevent defense).
The most basic Cover 4 scheme involves two cornerbacks and two safeties. Upon snap, the cornerbacks work for depth, backpedaling into their assigned zone. Both safeties backpedal towards their assigned zone.
As with other coverage shells, Cover 4 is paired with underneath man or zone coverage in its most basic form.
Advantages: The main advantage of a Cover 4 defense is that it is extremely difficult for even the best quarterbacks to complete long passes against it. Therefore, this coverage is generally used as a prevent defense to be used near the end of a game or half, meaning that the defense sacrifices the run and short pass to avoid giving up the big play with the confidence that the clock will soon expire.
Cover 4 also has the advantage of using safeties in run support as opposed to cornerbacks as would be the case in a Cover 2 scheme. This gives the defense nine in the box and the ability to stop the run with an extra defender on either side. The play-side safety would come up in support on a running play while the back-side safety would be responsible for the middle third of the field and the cornerbacks would have the deep outside thirds.
Disadvantages: The main weakness of Cover 4 shells is the large amount of space left open by the retreating defensive backs. Since the defensive backs are working for depth, short pass routes underneath can enable the quarterback to make short- and medium- length passes, as well as isolate a defensive back on a wide receiver near the sideline with little help.
Cover 6 (Hybrid Cover 2 and Cover 4)
Cover 6 refers to three deep defenders. However, unlike the ‘Cover 3′, the field is not split equally. Most teams that use Cover 6 are 3-4 Defenses, call offensive strength to the Field instead of to the offensive formation or front, and organize personnel by Field-side player and Boundary-side player. The position of the ball on the field therefore dictates strength of the offense. In Cover 6 the field safety and field corner cover fourths of the field, and depend on a field outside linebacker to support underneath them. The free safety covers the boundary-side deep half and the boundary corner plays the flat. Thus the field side of the coverage is quarters, and the boundary side is cover 2.
The Cover 6 gets its name from the fact that it combines elements of the Cover 2 (the strong safety covering half the field) and the Cover 4 on the opposite side. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a Cover 6 team. The quarters play of the strong side safety, like the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu, allows him to support on runs quickly. The Tennessee Titans have also been known to use it.
Advantages: Cover 6 blends the best of Cover 2 and Cover 4. On the boundary, Cover 6 uses a Cover 2 corner. The boundary corner sits at 5-7 yards and is in excellent position to attack flat passes and wide runs, as well as blitz from a short field position. The boundary safety plays at 12-15 yards and supports the boundary corner, providing good pass defense over the top, as well as being able to assist on any vertical release by a 3rd receiver from the field side. The Field safety plays a hard read technique from 7-8 yards, reading first for run. He will fit hard and fast on run plays. He defends the pass by squatting or dropping over the #2 wide receiver. He will then play vertical patterns and out patterns by #2, passing off inside patterns. The Field corner plays a quarters deep coverage from 7-8 yards, reading the #1 wide receiver and playing all vertical and inside patterns.
Disadvantages: Cover 6 has the disadvantages of both Cover 2 and Cover 4. The Field side is generally soft on flat coverage. The Field side corner can be left in single coverage deep as well. On runs, the field side may be spread by a tight end and 2 receiver formation, offering an advantage on the edge. The Boundary side is soft behind the corner to the sideline, as well as in the seam between corner and linebacker.
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