TRUE BLUE FAN QUESTION: Should the Dallas Cowboys sign free-agent pass rusher Greg Hardy?
Special thanks to loyal The Boys Are Back reader Donnie, who replied to this post DALLAS’ DREADED DEAD-MONEY DEALS with an interesting question:
“My question is: Are we going to get a step-in, pass rusher this year, like a Greg Hardy? We can probably get him for cheap anyway, we dealt with worse people and made it ok!!”
The question is great because so many Dallas Cowboy fans are missing the pass rush threat that was anchored by DeMarcus Ware for so many years. The team responded, in part, by drafting DeMarcus Lawrence with their 2014 second round pick. Lawrence showed promise once he returned from his injury late in the season, but the pass rush issue is far from resolved. The pressure from Marinelli’s Maulers was just a click short more often than not. The front seven seemed to be a split-second late getting to the opposing quarterback. That left the linebackers and secondary vulnerable and exposed at times. That’s a concern that we’ll surely see addressed in the upcoming NFL Draft and the remaining free-agency period.
The solution is debatable because success can be achieved by “right” lineman, linebacker or defensive back. It can also come from this very young defensive core of players entering their 2nd and 3rd years of Marinelli’s rotational system. All told, there are 16 defensive linemen (including NT Ken Bishop) on the Dallas Cowboys payroll. Personally, I agree with Donnie on his approach to this … defensive lineman. But, is Greg Hardy the best solution? Continue reading →
MASTERMINDING A MARINELLI MIRACLE: Anticipating the Dallas Cowboys 55th NFL Training Camp | Overcoming historic 2013 defensive struggles | Defensive coordinator faced with restoring faith in America’s Team
IRVING, Texas – Defense … defense … defense.
That will be the Dallas Cowboys battle cry when they land Tuesday (July 22, 2014) at Naval Air Station Point Mugu in Southern California.
Defense … defense … defense.
MEET MARINELLI’S MAULERS: Loss of DeMarcus Ware means relentless waves of Dallas Cowboys rushmen | 2014-2015 defensive trenches outlook | Seventeen DL-men remain | In-depth Analysis
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys report to Oxnard for training camp in a few days (July 22). Several questions center around Rod Marinelli’s 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys 4-3 defense … including:
Where will the pass rush come from after the notable personnel changes this offseason?
SHAKEUP AT VALLEY RANCH: Sean Lee’s injury leaves every LB spot in question | DeVonte Holloman is currently the best option at MLB | Dallas Cowboys roster 2014
IRVING, Texas – One practice into Organized Team Activities (OTAs), and the perceived weakness of the defense shifts entirely from one position group to another.
LOOKING FOR NEXT MAN UP: Dallas Cowboys exploring options to replace injured MLB Sean Lee | Watch Jason Garrett video
ARLINGTON, Texas – A community event held during the second day of Organized Team Activities (OTA’s) isn’t the typical setting to address seismic changes in the Dallas Cowboys upcoming season.
COWBOY STAR SEASON SIDELINED: Sean Lee suffers 2014 season-ending ACL tear in left knee | Dallas Cowboys locker room reaction | Watch Videos
IRVING, Texas – And we thought it couldn’t get more frustrating for Sean Lee.
COUNTDOWN TO THE OTA’S: Your 2014 Dallas Cowboys top defensive “Wave Rushers” starting to emerge | Dallas Cowboys Organized Team Activities 2014
IRVING, Texas — In my experience of working in personnel offices around the NFL this time of year, as a staff you are working hard to eliminate the unknowns for your squad.
There are always going to be questions whether you have the numbers (see the current Dallas Cowboys roster) and depth to get you through training camp in July and into August. The last thing you want to happen during camp is to get caught short if you have a run of bad luck with injuries.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Monte Kiffin knows Rod Marinelli can give the defense the jolt it needs | 2014 Dallas Cowboys coaching staff
IRVING, Texas – When Rod Marinelli thinks of the best thing Monte Kiffin’s done, it’s not the 40-plus years of coaching defense professionally and collegiately or the Super Bowl they shared together in Tampa Bay.
TAKIN IT UP A NOTCH: Dallas Cowboys CB Brandon Carr changed offseason work habits, determined to take over the league
IRVING, Texas – To say Brandon Carr’s ready for the 2014 NFL season might be a drastic understatement.
THE 2014 LINEBACKER BATTLE: Dallas Cowboys linebackers competing for starting spots | 2014 Dallas Cowboys roster
IRVING, Texas – A year ago at this time, the Dallas Cowboys linebacker corps seemed set in stone. With OTAs a week away and training camp on the horizon, that’s anything but the case in 2014.
THE EBERFLUS EXPERIMENTS: Defining Dallas Cowboys rookie LB Anthony Hitchens role means being tested inside and out
IRVING, Texas – Last Monday and Tuesday, Anthony Hitchens had to take final exams in sociology, earth science and sports promotion at the University of Iowa.
The first two days of the Dallas Cowboys rookie minicamp have been a more difficult test.
“It’s just starting out, so of course it’s supposed to be,” the fourth-round draft pick said.
Hitchens (31) moved to inside linebacker after playing on the weak side at Iowa (pictured above), where he led the Hawkeyes in tackles his last two seasons. He now has to call the defenses, call the checks and communicate with the entire group.
MEET YOUR NEW DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Pro scouting report on veteran DT Amobi Okoye | Dallas Cowboys free agency 2014
Amobi Okoye | Defensive Tackle | Louisville | Height/Weight: 6-2, 292 | Age: 26
Drafted: 1st round, No. 10 overall, 2007 NFL Draft by Houston Texans at age 19
Experience: Houston Texans and Chicago Bears.
Games Studied: 2012 Chicago Bears against: St. Louis, Dallas and Green Bay
CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Monte Kiffin’s role has changed, but the Dallas Cowboys defense is in good hands | 2014 Dallas Cowboys coaching staff
Monte Kiffin doesn’t hold the title of Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator anymore, but he’s as fired up as ever. Just ask him.
“I’m really excited. I’m really fired up,” Kiffin said. “I’m not down one bit. I’m really not. I can’t coach that way. I wouldn’t stay here. If I didn’t feel right, if I knew I wasn’t going to contribute, and it wasn’t going to be a good situation, I promise you I would have moved on. I like it here. I like the head coach. But Rod Marinelli is the guy.
Kiffin was hired a little over a year ago to oversee the team’s transition from the 3-4 to the Tampa Two 4-3 style (commonly referred to as the Texas-2 Defense on this site).
THE TOUGH-LOVE DEFENSE: Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli focused on teaching | Dallas Cowboys rookie mini-camp 2014
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli: Time For Teaching | 2:54 | Rod Marinelli talks about why it’s an important time for teaching instead of competition. He also talks about where he could envision Tyrone Crawford playing on the defensive line. (Watch | Listen)
Former Marine, and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s not into nursing anyone’s confidence, or lack thereof.
VETERAN COWBOY ON A MISSION: Dallas Cowboys DE Anthony Spencer dedicated to rehabilitation and recovery
Dallas Cowboys DE Anthony Spencer: | 6:11 | Anthony Spencer gives an injury update, and talks about what it has been like trying to recover from microfracture surgery. (Watch | Listen)
IRVING, Texas – While yesterday’s (Friday) focus was mainly on the near-50 players at the Dallas Cowboys rookie minicamp, defensive end Anthony Spencer was one of the veterans at the facility after his rehab workout.
Although he said he was on schedule and optimistic about his recovery from microfracture surgery, he didn’t give a specific timetable when he might return this season.
But later in the day, Dallas Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones was a little more detailed.
THE SAFETY VALVE IS OPEN: Dallas Cowboys firmly support young J.J. Wilcox following the 2014 NFL Draft | Dallas Cowboys defense
IRVING, Texas – Perhaps rookie safety Ahmad Dixon will turn into something truly special, but the numbers speak for themselves.
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Dixon No. 248 overall, eight picks away from the end of the 2014 NFL Draft on Saturday. The fact that they took him means they see something promising in his play, but his position on the draft board doesn’t inspire much in the way of expectations.
That’s by design, to hear it from Dallas Cowboys executives. The safety spot is a position some consider to be a dire need for Dallas, but it’s hardly evident based on the draft strategy. With the No. 16 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys had a shot at any of this year’s premier prospects – Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor and Jimmie Ward – not to mention a slew of other safeties drafted behind them.
Despite that perception, though, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said he was “pretty comfortable” with the outlook at safety going forward with Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath, and Matt Johnson.
“I think I was always pretty upfront about that. You can obviously upgrade it if you take them one – I’m not going to deny that. To some degree there was one in the second there we liked a lot, the Northern Illinois safety,” he said. “But after that, we kind of felt like we were getting a lot of what we had. We like J.J., we like Church and we like Heath. We’ll just see how these guys play out.”
That’s an attitude both Stephen Jones and Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones repeated several times throughout the weekend. Specifically, it seems the offseason optimism is for Wilcox to grab hold of the starting role he briefly held in 2013.
The Georgia Southern standout was taken No. 80 overall just last season and endured plenty of ups and downs — from losing his mother in training camp to being named the starter to a knee injury that forced him out of the lineup – during a rollercoaster rookie year.
“We thought we had really hit on a big one right up until he lost his mother – we were naming him the starter the day he left,” Stephen Jones said on Friday night. “Obviously, we couldn’t do that because he’d have to miss quite a bit of time.”
Dixon, Johnson and Heath should provide plenty of competition for Wilcox, not to mention fellow second-year safety Jakar Hamilton. The Cowboys also signed three undrafted safeties in free agency.
In the meantime before training camp, however, hopes remain high for Wilcox.
“We feel good about him – that’s saying a lot,” Jerry Jones said. “But, boy, he looks good out here and we have high expectations for him.”
SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: Dallas Cowboys linebacker position is loaded with question marks | Dallas Cowboys Draft 2014
The Dallas Cowboys linebacker position is loaded with question marks from top to bottom. That uncertainty also puts the level of priority to address this position in question as well.
POINT AND COUNTERPOINT: DC Marinelli vs. OC Linehan – Debating which coaching change will impact the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys the most
IRVING, Texas – For some, it can still be an issue deciphering the specific roles of each coach after the various offseason changes, but it’s no issue picking out the most impactful move.
That is, without question, the move to make Rod Marinelli the defensive coordinator.
Dallas Cowboys officials can say whatever they want about Monte Kiffin’s new position by adding the title of assistant head coach, but the reality is Marinelli’s now in charge of the defense. It’s a switch that should help change the course of next season more significantly than any other coaching move.
For starters, Marinelli won’t need to do much to at least improve the defense from where it was at last year as the NFL’s worst total defense, allowing 415 yards per game. No other NFL team allowed even 400 yards per game.
In addition to earning the unwavering faith of all the many linemen who cycled in through Dallas last season, Marinelli also experienced recent success as a defensive coordinator in the NFL.
The Bears finished as the No. 5 total defense in Marinelli’s final season as the defensive coordinator for Chicago in 2012. Throughout Marinelli’s tenure, that defense had a penchant for pressure and takeaways. The Bears ranked in the top 10 in sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles in Marinelli’s final season as coordinator.
Since arriving as the defensive line coach last season, he’s preached the importance of finishing. A sack is not enough to Marinelli. He wants the ball to pop out and for his linemen to be athletic enough to take that to the house. He’ll now get to preach the same objective to a wider audience on defense.
The Bears led the league with 24 interceptions in his final season in Chicago, returning eight of them for touchdowns. Chicago also ranked in the top 10 in total defense two out of three times during Marinelli’s three years as coordinator.
Now, this is a different team he’s dealing with. His personnel in Chicago undoubtedly played a role in those numbers. But Marinelli’s recent past gives reason to believe this defense has a better chance to succeed under his tutelage, and no one would have scoffed had this changed been made last season. Any marginal change will be an improvement from finishing last in the league, but he gives the Cowboys the potential to be better than just “not the worst.”
On the other side of the ball, the Dallas Cowboys realigned a coach (Bill Callahan) who’s now still on the staff and part of the game-planning process on offense while adding to the mix a new play-caller (Scott Linehan) and voice for the offense with new terminology.
Last year, owner/general manager Jerry Jones said it was his intention for Jason Garrett to be significantly less involved on offense before circumstances changed the original plan. Will that happen again if the offense is out of sync early on as it adjusts to Scott Linehan’s offense?
The decision to make Marinelli the defensive coordinator is the major move everyone was waiting for, and it’s the move that will make the most impact among the various changes that occurred to the coaching staff this offseason.
It makes sense for the focus of this offseason to rest squarely on the Dallas Cowboys defense.
We’re talking about a unit that finished last in the NFL and was the worst in franchise history. The Cowboys surrendered 500 and 600 yard days, 40 and 50-point totals and first downs galore in 2013; in 2014, they changed their defensive coordinator from Monte Kiffin to Rod Marinelli.
All eyes will be on how the defense improves, and it will certainly have to if the Dallas Cowboys are going to compete for anything meaningful. For the money, though, the real improvement comes on offense, which is also under new management in the form of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
The story is well-known by now: Jason Garrett brought in an old colleague in Linehan – someone with similar offensive philosophies to himself – to oversee the passing game and manage play calling duties in place of Bill Callahan.
Both Marinelli and Linehan have had their share of success at these positions before. Chicago led the league in turnovers and finished fifth in total defense under Marinelli’s supervision in 2012. With Linehan serving as offensive coordinator, Detroit finished sixth, third and fifth in total offense in the past three seasons.
Take a look at who each coordinator is working with for your answer about which unit will look better in 2014. The defense could possibly lose Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer, and there is the ever-present question about whether DeMarcus Ware returns – or how well he’ll play if he does. The secondary remains a question mark, particularly at safety, and the linebacker corps appears unsettled – its lone constant, Sean Lee, is once again returning from injury.
Yes, it’s likely that Marinelli will have some new draft picks to work with, and there’s no telling what free agency could bring. As much as that might help, though, any rookie contributions would have to be substantial to bolster the Dallas Cowboys standing that much.
Meanwhile, this Dallas offense – which finished a surprisingly mediocre 16th in total offense – returns four of the team’s five Pro Bowlers from 2013. The Cowboys have 2013 Pro Bowlers at wide receiver, left tackle, tight end, and running back. Although not an award winner last season, Tony Romo has a few accolades of his own.
Everyone knows the gaudy numbers Linehan was able to put up with Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford in Detroit, and that can only benefit Romo and Dez Bryant. Similarly, it should open up opportunities for Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, and even Cole Beasley to get more involved.
And take a look at the Lions’ 2013 rushing totals before you worry about DeMarco Murray’s production. Murray is coming off his first 1,000 yard season and his first Pro Bowl nod, and the Dallas Cowboys will undoubtedly want to continue that momentum.
Fortunately, 2013 saw Reggie Bush manage just the second 1,000-yard season of his career under Linehan in Detroit. The Lions offense also produced a 650-yard, eight-touchdown effort from backup Joique Bell. The two backs weren’t exactly slouches in the passing game, either. Bell caught 53 balls for 547 yards, while Bush nabbed 54 for 506.
The Dallas Cowboys managed basically no production from the running backs behind Murray. If you’re a fan of Lance Dunbar or Joseph Randle, the addition of Linehan can only mean good things.
None of that accounts for an offensive line that may finally be considered a strength of this team. Anchored by Tyron Smith and bolstered by the addition of Travis Frederick, the Dallas offensive line caught fire in the second half of 2013.
So it’s not as if I think Linehan is a better coach than Marinelli, and I’m also not saying Marinelli can’t improve this defense. I don’t think there’s any argument Linehan has more to work with, though, and that should show when the offense returns to its more explosive ways.
NEW TWIST ON TEXAS-2 DEFENSE: Rod Marinelli excited about his new role as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator
INDIANAPOLIS – Rod 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.”
VALLEY RANCH RESTRUCTURED: Expect Dallas Cowboys coaching changes to bring aggressive, attacking style on both sides of the ball
Here’s what to expect from the 2014 restructuring of the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff:
The differences with Rod Marinelli as the defensive coordinator
Many so-called experts believed that the switch to this 4-3 defense was going to be good for all the pieces that Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett had on this roster.
Nothing against George Selvie, Nick Hayden and what appeared to be the cast of thousands that played along the defensive line this past season. They were not what these defensive coaches believed they had before they went to Oxnard. Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett were outstanding in what they were able to do with the group that Jones and Will McClay assembled.
What you will see from Marinelli that you didn’t see from Monte Kiffin is playing more to the strengths of your personnel. Marinelli and the other coaches were not going to step on the toes of Kiffin and what he wanted to do scheme wise, that just was not their style.
You will see a more aggressive approach from Marinelli when it comes to attacking offenses. His defenses while he was with the Bears, were this way. His front seven played a huge role in how he called the game. You will still see some two deep schemes but you will see even more of the single high packages that they went to in the second half of the season in Dallas. Kiffin was more willing to sit there and play sound than he was to come after an offense. This is where Rod Marinelli was be totally different.
Changes with Scott Linehan as the new offensive play caller
The hiring of Scott Linehan as the offensive player caller for the Dallas Cowboys did catch many by surprise. Once Jason Garrett came out after the bye week and said that he would be the coach relaying the play call to Tony Romo, it signaled the end of Bill Callahan in that role.
At that point, some believed Garrett was coaching for his job and by taking over that role, he was trying to save it.
What Linehan can bring to the table is a scheme that will get Dez Bryant even more involved in the offense. During his NFL career, Linehan has made it a point to make the “X” receiver the focus of the passing game. We all witnessed firsthand what Calvin Johnson was able to accomplish with Linehan as the play caller.
What Garrett and Callahan were able to do later last season was move Bryant around to create some matchup opportunities which Linehan should build on. There were times during the Lions games where you observed Johnson playing out of the slot and with effectiveness.
We should also appreciate what Linehan was able to do with Reggie Bush in the backfield. There were creative ideas of where to line him up and how to get him the ball in space. That’s not to say that Lance Dunbar is Reggie Bush but the thought of what he can do with a loose-play running back is inviting.
Scott Linehan has moved the ball wherever he has coached and with this offense at key positions, he should once again have that opportunity.
MEET YOUR NEWEST DALLAS COWBOY: Defensive tackle Frank Kearse | Scouting Report
IRVING, Texas – A quick look at new defensive tackle Frank Kearse, who the Dallas Cowboys added to their roster earlier this week.
Frank Kearse: 6-4 | 315 | 5.31 40-yard dash | Alabama A&M.
Has spent time with the Dolphins and Panthers before landing on the practice squad of the Titans this season.
Drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round of 2011 NFL Draft
Game film studied:
Carolina 2012 season against Miami, Kansas City, Atlanta, San Diego.
Will play as a one-technique in this scheme. Might be better suited to play as an end in a 3-4 but gives you some size inside at the one.
Is not that quick-twitch type of player that Rod Marinelli is accustomed to playing with, but his power is impressive.
Gets more push with power and upper body strength than he does with pass rush moves. Can walk blockers back.
Can be difficult to move at the point of attack at times. Able to hold up against double teams. Observed him holding off blocker with one arm.
Is active when it comes to moving down the line and working toward the ball. Showed some mobility.
Was able to redirect and change directions. Not a stiff moving player. Can play the low block and keep balance.
Had a nice sack against the Falcons where he defeated the double team with power, collapsed the pocket on Matt Ryan.
Was very impressed how he battled Max Unger from the Seahawks. In the plays he had, never allowed him to control him in the running game.
There were some snaps where I thought he could have played better with his hands, and when he didn’t that got him in trouble. Would help him shed blockers better.
LINEBACKER SHAMBLES AND GAMBLES: Bruce Carter expected to return; Rookie may start at MLB | Cowboys Cross-Training
IRVING, Texas – There isn’t a spot on the team more in shambles than at linebacker.
Earlier in the season, it was the defensive line, a position that has seen nearly 20 different players take the field at some point.
But it’s never been as bad as it was, or is right now, at linebacker.
What the Dallas Cowboys finished with Sunday against the Packers should be worse than what they will play with this week in Washington. The main reason for that is the availability of Bruce Carter, who all but guaranteed he will play this Sunday, despite missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury.
Not only playing, but Carter is expected to wear the defensive headset in his helmet, something the Cowboys played most of the second half without last week against the Packers. Carter will make the defensive line calls despite staying at weak-side linebacker.
That means DeVonte Holloman, a rookie who had missed five straight games until last week with a neck injury, and a player who played both outside linebacker and safety in college, will be the Dallas Cowboys starting middle linebacker this week.
Holloman has played other positions before in his collegiate and high school days, but never in the middle. He’ll get that shot Sunday with perhaps the season on the line for the Cowboys.
So what’s the hardest thing for Holloman?
“Knowing what to look for before it happens. Guys have been in the fire before, they can see things coming a lot faster than guys that are just thrown out there or their first time out there,” he said. “Just seeing a couple things before they come at you.”
Holloman was thrown into action last week after both Justin Durant and Ernie Sims left the game against the Packers. And because both players had the headsets, it left Holloman having to get relayed signals from the coaches on the sideline.
“Hopefully we’ll have a guy with a microphone this time and we won’t have to do too many signals,” Holloman said. “Bruce will have the mic to start, and I’ll be the backup with it.”
Durant has been placed on IR with a hamstring injury and it’s unlikely Sims (hip/groin) will play. The Cowboys signed Orie Lemon to the roster and will get rookie Cameron Lawrence ready as well. Lawrence had to play most of the second half on the outside.
They certainly can’t afford any more injuries at linebacker. The team is preparing to play again without Sean Lee, who is dealing with a neck injury that likely keeps him out the rest of the regular season.
As for Carter, who missed one game already due to his hamstring, he knows both time and linebackers are running out.
“We understand we don’t have really any depth right now at linebacker, so if we can get guys back healthy like me, try to get Ernie there, he’s been banged up,” Carter said. “We just need to get anybody, really.”
And while Carter’s season hasn’t lived up to the high expectations set for him in the offseason, he knows he has a job to do, especially if he’s the only experienced starter out there, with Kyle Wilber on the strong side.
“My job is to try to lead the defense to a victory and just play as good as we can. When things get out of hand, try to get everybody to calm down and just try to get back to our game plan and play sound,” Carter said. “I’m up for the challenge. I know what’s ahead of me. We’ve just got to go out there and execute.”
And facing the Redskins won’t be easy, simply because of the way they run the football. Washington ranks third in the league at 140.9 rushing yards per game. Even with Kirk Cousins now in for Robert Griffin III, the Redskins will still rely on Alfred Morris, who ranks fifth in the league at 1,125 rushing yards.
RELATED: Cross-Training allows the Cowboys to shift linebackers during roster crisis
IRVING, Texas – To the Cowboys, the term “cross-training” means learning multiple positions to be ready at a moment’s notice.
They’ve put that term to full use this year. Head coach Jason Garrett said it was essential particularly in training camp to cross-train the linebackers, and that could pay off now with all the mixing and matching to adjust for injuries.
“Sometimes you do it out of necessity in training camp to get through a practice or get through a preseason game,” Garrett said. “But you always want to cross-train your guys because it’s a long season. We understand that injuries happen.”
DeVonte Holloman’s getting set to start at middle linebacker for the first time in his career. Next to him on one side will be Bruce Carter, who many thought would shift to the middle after Sean Lee’s injury, considering he’s gotten experience there before.
Next to Holloman on the other side at strong side linebacker is Kyle Wilber, who began the year as a defensive end. Justin Durant, who played middle linebacker last week, had started the year as a strong side linebacker.
“Sometimes you can’t just simply put the next guy in,” Garrett said. “You have to find the next best guy from somewhere else. So we have done that in the past and it’s benefiting us now.”
That goes to show just how much versatility has been necessary for a defense searching for any possible answers at the tail end of the season.
Holloman said he’s been learning middle linebacker all season, but he never played the position before coming to the Cowboys. He was used to playing more of a hybrid safety/linebacker role in college.
“Coming from a safety to a hybrid guy and then finally playing linebacker, I’ve been learning since I got here, so it’s not much different,” Holloman said.
Holloman was forced into action last week after injuries to Durant and Ernie Sims. That was a tough circumstance for Holloman, but the brief experience he had earlier in the year helped out some.
“We all cross-train each others’ positions, so I was familiar with it, but I hadn’t done it,” Holloman said. “It was going out there and just learning on the fly.”
Garrett hopes Holloman can take what he learns from this experience moving forward.
“He’s a smart guy, he cares about football and he works very hard at it,” Garrett said. “Like some of the other young guys we’re talking about, he’ll learn from the experiences. When you get a chance to play Mike for the first time in the NFL, he’ll go back and reflect on those 60, 70 plays that he was in there and he’ll learn from them because he goes about it the right way. I think it was a good experience for him. He did a lot of good things, and hopefully he can build on that.”
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said earlier this week he can’t worry about what personnel is on the field for the Cowboys, because in the NFL it’s such a common occurrence for one player to go down and another to have to step up and that everyone’s in the league for a reason.
With his band of backups, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said he still has confidence in his group with only two regular season games remaining to turn things around.
“You go in your defensive room and split up and away you go,” Kiffin said. “You ain’t walking, get your heads up, let’s go. That’s the way it works. There ain’t no pouting around. We’ll be ready to play.”
COAST-TO-COAST CRITICISM: Don’t minimize the real issue with the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys
IRVING, Texas – Games like this last one against the Packers just feed the monster. It’s out there and it loves to jump on Tony Romo and Jason Garrett and of course, Jerry Jones.
Anytime the Cowboys blow a second-half lead or Romo throws a pick or two late, it ignites a wave of criticism from coast to coast. As Jason Garrett says, “it comes with the dinner.”
I just did a segment on NFL AM on the NFL Network for about five minutes and answered questions about Tony Romo’s decision-making, Dez Bryant leaving the field early and Jason Garrett’s job security.
But no one is asking about the real issue of this team. The issue that led to Dez walking off the field or Tony having to make those decisions or the fact Garrett hasn’t won enough games this year and why his job is in question.
Let’s be honest, the real issue about the 2013 Dallas Cowboys is the defense. This defense is one of the worst in NFL history.
They rank dead-last in the NFL, yielding 427.3 yards per game. They are the worst against the pass at 297.4 yards per game.
And that’s really the root of this whole mess.
I had one Cowboys assistant coach tell me Monday that “if Aaron Rodgers would’ve played, he would’ve thrown for 500 yards.” The same coach also said Kirk Cousins of the Redskins is better than Matt Flynn, who lit them up in the second half.
This team scored 36 points on Sunday. And it wasn’t enough. Sure, the offense had chances to get more touchdowns and settled on five Dan Bailey field goals. Yeah, if they get one more touchdowns instead of a field goal, they probably win.
I get that. Still, 36 points should win you a game in the NFL.
The Cowboys rank fourth in the NFL in scoring at 28.1 points per game. That trails only Denver (38.2), Chicago (29.0) and Kansas City (28.5). All three of those teams are either leading their division or clinched a playoff spot. And all three teams have beaten the Cowboys, too.
But 28 points per game is good enough to be atop the NFL leaders in scoring.
Yet, when the Cowboys actually score 28 points this year, their record is only 4-4. That’s ridiculous that a team can lose four games when they score 28 points or more. Two of those losses occurred with more than 35 points, including the one Sunday.
Yeah, Romo threw a pick he shouldn’t have when he checked out of run. I’m not absolving him from that. It was a bad decision and one that makes no sense. But why did he feel the need to do so? He knew he couldn’t give the ball back to the Packers, because they would score and win the game.
He gave the ball back to Detroit and the Lions marched the field and won. He knew he couldn’t do the same with Green Bay.
Again, I don’t agree with Romo’s decision to throw it. I would’ve been OK punting the ball back to Green Bay with no timeouts and under the 2-minute warning and needing about 85-90 yards to the end zone. I say you take your chances.
But most teams and quarterbacks in the NFL would’ve done that. Then again, they probably have more faith in their defense.
That’s just how bad things have gotten here in Dallas. This defense is shredded because of injuries. And the players who are on the field aren’t always performing to the level we have grown accustomed to.
So take your shots at Garrett, Romo and Dez and whoever else. But the real issue is this defense is as bad as we’ve ever seen.
Courtesy: Nick Eatman | DC staff writer
MAXIMIZING MARINELLI’S MISFITS: Dallas Cowboys defense looking for pass-rush spark | DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee locker room interviews
IRVING, Texas– After the first four games of this season, the Dallas Cowboys had already garnered 14 sacks.
After the next four, or the second quarter of the season, the Cowboys had just seven more.
The third quarter of the season – games played in November – the Cowboys’ defense mustered only five quarterback sacks.
And one game into this December run, the Cowboys have just one sack.
That’s not exactly the kind of trend this team is looking for as it now must win at least two games, perhaps all three of the final three to make the playoffs.
So where’s the rush?
“We’ve got to get back to that,” said DeMarcus Ware, who has been banged up for parts of this season and has just six sacks this year. “It’s on us. We’ve got to get more pressure on the quarterback. This is the time of year when the lights come on. So we have to be better.”
And maybe, Green Bay will be the opponent that allows that. At least statistically, that could happen if backup Matt Flynn plays for Aaron Rodgers, who has tried to come back from a broken collarbone.
The Packers have allowed 37 sacks this year, which ranks 23rd in the NFL. Of those 37 sacks allowed, 12 have come in the last two weeks with Flynn under center.
But while the Packers have endured their share of injuries, the Cowboys aren’t feeling sorry for them, especially when it comes to their defensive line. Since the first day of training camp when expected contributor Tyrone Crawford suffered a torn Achilles, it’s been one injury after another. The Cowboys have played nearly 20 different defensive linemen since the start of the season, although the starters haven’t changed much.
One of the players signed in training camp was George Selvie, who is tied with Ware for second on the team in sacks with six. But he hasn’t recorded one since the Vikings game, going four straight weeks without dropping the quarterback.
“I just have to keep working at it,” Selvie said. “You can’t get down on yourself. You have to keep fighting out there. That’s what we all have to do as a team. (Sacks) will come. You just have to keep getting the pressure.”
Coach Jason Garrett was asked if players such as Selvie has hit the proverbial wall.
“I think he’s a good consistent football player and has been all year long for us,” Garrett said of Selvie, who was flagged for two illegal hits on the quarterback against the Bears. “He was around the quarterback a little bit the other night in the ballgame. He comes to work every day. He’s not a dynamic, dynamic, dynamic pass rusher, but to me every game he shows up and somehow positively impacts the game.”
Selvie, of course, is starting for Anthony Spencer, who signed a $10.63 million franchise tag this year, only to play in one game because of a knee injury that eventually needed microfracture surgery.
The Cowboys have been blessed to have Selvie, who has started all 13 games at defensive end. They can’t say the same for Ware, who has started 10 games, missing the only three games of his career back in late October because of a quad strain that he says has healed 100 percent.
After Ware and Selvie, the Dallas Cowboys will likely have a new face this week in Edgar Jones, who has been on IR/Designated for Return since Week 2. Jones has been out with a groin injury that needed sports hernia surgery. He has practiced this week and Garrett said the Cowboys are expecting him to play.
At this point, after signing guys like Everette Brown, Jarius Wynn and Martez Wilson, not to mention numerous other ends who have already been signed and released, the Dallas Cowboys are hoping for some kind of spark.
RELATED: DeMarcus Ware “Knows For A Fact” that he’ll be a disruptive force
DeMarcus Ware & Sean Lee (3:14) | (Watch this Video)
DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee discuss the state of the Dallas Cowboys defense and give updates on their injury status’.
IRVING, Texas – There’s no doubt in DeMarcus Ware’s mind that he can still be and will be a disruptive force going forward.
It’s been a tough stretch for Ware, who has just two sacks in his last seven games and is in danger of finishing a season with single-digit sacks for the first time since his rookie year, but he believes he’ll get back to his previous form.
“Every week, you’ve got to be your worst critic, and that’s me,” Ware said. “For me, I know I haven’t been playing the way I need to be playing. So you go back to the drawing board and say, ‘Hey, what am I doing wrong or what do I need to change to be more effective?’ It’s just the small things. It goes back down to fundamentals, doing the bags, doing tackling drills, doing those types of things.”
It’s not an issue of health, according to Ware, who dealt with a thigh injury as his sack totals dipped in the middle of the season. He said he came out of the Raiders game healthy and has felt fine physically since.
He also said there are no excuses as long as he’s feeling healthy and himself, which he apparently is.
Ware asked a reporter what his name was, to which the reporter replied, ‘DeMarcus Ware.’
“All right, ain’t nothing changed,” Ware said. “I don’t feel like nothing’s changed. December, it’s always a time where the lights turn on and you’ve got to separate yourself apart from everybody. That’s what we have to do these last three games, and we’re going to do that.”
The Cowboys’ defense needs Ware to become the player he was in training camp and at the beginning of the season if its to turn things around and start reaching the quarterback. Ware said the most significant issue the defense has faced in recent weeks is giving up the big play. He also said defenders haven’t been consistent in their fundamentals, and that includes himself.
He said it’s more on the players than the coaching staff to turn things around.
“The coaching, the scheme is really good,” Ware said. “It always goes back down to fundamentals, doing the right things at the right time. And it’s all about timing. Our defense is all about hustle, hustling to the ball, getting strip sacks, making the big plays. We haven’t been consistent doing that these last games.”
But Ware said he knows for a fact he’ll get back to the level he’s accustomed to playing, and neither Ware nor head coach Jason Garrett believe his switch from 3-4 outside linebacker to 4-3 defensive end has been the reason for his statistical decline. At times, Ware will still play 4-3 end while standing up, as he was accustomed to doing most of his career.
Though Ware said he’s healthy, Garrett referenced the injury Ware’s fought through as a possible reason for limited productivity.
“He has been dealing with the injury for a lot of the year,” Garrett said. “Get him healthy and get him ready to go, and really focus on this challenge right here. Don’t worry about how we got to this point. Just get going. Put your hand on the ground and go affect the ball game.”
Garrett’s still got confidence in his top outside rusher and believes he’ll return to form this week.
“He can do what he needs to do,” Garrett said “There’s no question about that. Again, he’s dealing with an injury and he’s coming off the injury and hopefully he heals up more and more as it goes.”