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.”
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.”
THROWBACK 1934: Detroit Lions begin an NFL tradition–hosting annual Thanksgiving Day game (Special Feature)
Thanksgiving Day football, once a tradition among the high schools and colleges of America, has more or less faded into oblivion in most sections of the country.
But it is still alive in the National Football League in two franchise cities, Detroit and Dallas, where Thanksgiving Day football has become a normal, expected way of life. Beginning in 1966, Dallas has missed playing on the holiday only in 1975 and 1977.
However, when it comes to Thanksgiving Day football, NFL style, most fans first think of the Lions and the tradition that was started in 1934. It was their first year in Detroit after a local radio executive, George A. Richards, had purchased the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans and moved the team to Detroit. The Spartans were members of the NFL from 1930 to 1933.
With the Spartans, not only was Richards bringing a proven, quality team to Detroit, he was also bringing at least one super-star, Earl "Dutch" Clark, one of the most versatile backs ever to play the game. Clark had an outstanding supporting cast in the Detroit backfield with a big, talented line anchored by Frank Christiansen.
Even though he knew there was some risk in scheduling a game on Thanksgiving Day, Richards also recognized that his Lions were taking a back seat to the baseball Tigers on the sports pages. So as one way of attracting Motor City fans during the team’s first season, he opted for the Thanksgiving Day contest.
The matchup between the Lions and the World Champion Chicago Bears proved to be an all-time classic. The 1934 Lions had not allowed a touchdown until their eighth game and entered the game with the Bears with a 10-1 record. But with 11 straight wins, Chicago had an even better record. Still a win would put the Lions into a first-place tie with the Bears with only a game left, a repeat clash with the Bears in Chicago, just three days later on December 2.
The 26,000 tickets for the Turkey Day clash in the University of Detroit Stadium, were sold out two weeks in advance of the game. It was estimated that another 25,000 would have attended had there been seats available.
The Bears edged out the Lions 19-16 in the classic holiday struggle and then prevailed 10-7 three days later to clinch the NFL Western Division crown.
Not despondent over the last two losses, Richards reasoned that his team had done well in its first year in Detroit. His confidence was rewarded the next year when the Lions won the 1935 NFL Championship. The key game in the title drive came on Thanksgiving Day, when the Lions defeated the Bears 14-2 to clinch the West championship.
Thus the football-on-Thanksgiving tradition became firmly established in Detroit. With the exception of a six-season gap from 1939 to 1944, the Thanksgiving Day game has been played with no interruptions.
The Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day heritage gained national attention in another way, starting with the very first game in 1934. Knowing the publicity potential of radio, Richards along with NBC Radio, set up a 94-station network to broadcast the Lions-Bears showdown. The famous announcing team of Graham McNamee and Don Wilson described the action.
RELATED: NFL HISTORY – Thanksgiving Day game results 1920-2011
NFL games on Thanksgiving have included some great performances and memorable moments over the years. The legendary Harold "Red" Grange (left) made his pro debut for the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving 1925. In 2008, quarterback Tony Romo (right) led the Dallas Cowboys to a convincing 34-9 win over the Seattle Seahawks by throwing for 331 yards and 3 TDs.
Being at Cowboys training camp is like being at home for rookie fullback Jamize Olawale, who grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and went to junior college at El Camino in Torrance. He’s trying to make the team as a blocking back and on special teams. He might get a chance to showcase his running and catching ability in Monday night’s game because of injuries to Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar. But being at an NFL training camp is an eye-opening experience for any rookie. The former North Texas receiver talks about five things that make rookie life in the NFL an experience to remember.
1 The environment. "Just getting to know all the fans, all the attention that the Cowboys get, is interesting. It’s fun."
2 Learning how to prepare. "You bring your hard hat to work every day, as coach [Jason] Garrett says. Come to work. Have that mindset every day when you wake up."
3 The apartment setup. "It’s nice. It’s nicer than what I stay in at home, so I have no problem with that. And they feed us well. We’re taken care of."
4 Initiations, like carrying the veterans’ pads in after practice. "It’s not the first time. It’s cool, it’s fine. It’s part of the game, part of being a rookie. I’ll take it in stride."
5 It’s tough. "I expected it to be hard. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. So far, Coach has been helping us get through it and prosper."
Cole Beasley, the tiny undrafted receiver from SMU, has a ton of fans already at Cowboys training camp. And why not? He keeps making catches — and tough catches. After he went to the ground for one ball, grabbing it and holding on as he went down in the arms of cornerback Lionel Smith, a fan yelled out: "Pay attention, coaches! We need a Welker!"
Fox Sports reporter and MMA entrepreneur Jay Glazer visited the Cowboys sideline for Friday’s practice. He has an eye for MMA talent, and he said DeMarco Murray is excellent. "He’s got great knees," Glazer said.
Brill Garrett, the wife of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, spent practice on the sideline with her trusty camera. She’s a photography enthusiast, and collecting her own camp pictures is a tradition.
They said it
"If we weren’t in the system we are in, I’d probably wreck this thing trying to spend money to get players to win a Super Bowl. But that’s not the system we are in. We’ve got to do it other ways." — Jerry Jones
Former Cowboys defensive tackle Tony Casillas got away from three days at Disneyland to make it to Friday’s practice. He liked the shape the players are in, and he said he’s down to about 240 from his playing weight of 295. But he said that’s nothing compared to how Leon Lett, coaching for the Cowboys, looks like a different person.
Courtesy: Carlos Mendez
LETT THREAT: Dallas Cowboys Tyrone Crawford has a bull rush but looking to Leon Lett for another move
Rookie defensive end Tyrone Crawford said he’s got a good bull rush, but he needs to find another pass rush move to pair with it.
For that, he’s turning to Leon Lett.
“He’s forgotten more moves than I know,” Crawford said after Monday’s practice, when he talked about his showing the Blue-White scrimmage. Coach Jason Garrett said he liked what he saw of Crawford’s pass rush in the live part of the scrimmage.
“I feel like I have a pretty decent pass rush as far as bull rush, but I definitely need to work something off my bull rush,” he said. “That’s definitely something me, Coach Baker and Big Cat have been working on. Hopefully, I can do that in this first game.”
Crawford was slowed a little last week by a calf injury. And he missed the OTAs and minicamp with a calf strain.
But he didn’t miss a day with the latest injury.
“Just coming off that calf, the physical side of it is a little hard,” he said. “But I felt like I was more mentally prepared than maybe I would have been if I was in there playing. I don’t know. The mental part of it, I feel better about. But the physical part, I definitely got to work on some things.”
Lett was an intern with the Cowboys last year, and they decided to bring him back for another year after the positive influence he had on another end, Clifton Geathers.
“He really grew as a player,” Garrett said of Geathers. “He was kind of flapping around in his career, and he really grew as a player. I think Leon had a lot to do with that.”
Crawford said Lett is understanding as a coach, but pushes hard.
“When you’re doing something wrong, he’ll tell you, and then he’ll get you right on what you’re doing,” Crawford said. “He likes to rep things. Back when I was injured, my calf was still a little bit sore and everything, and he had me out there going 100 times on the sleds.”
So does Crawford see himself in anything Lett did as a player?
“I cannot even compare myself to Big Cat,” Crawford said. “He’s a great pass rusher. I’m just going to take everything in. Everything he says, I’m going to take it in, learn from him as much as I can. Hopefully, I can become the pass rusher that he was.”
Courtesy: Carlos Mendez | FWST
The Cowboys have picked up a defensive tackle with three Super Bowl rings to add to the defensive line.
As a coach.
Leon Lett has been hired as the team’s defensive assistant/defensive line coach. He will assist defensive line coach Brian Baker, especially when it comes to the development of some of the group’s younger players.
Lett was with the team in training camp last year as part of the NFL’s Minority Coaching Fellowship Program and would periodically work with players at Valley Ranch during the season. Head coach Jason Garrett was impressed with how Lett worked with Clifton Geathers and others and decided to create the position.
Known as Big Cat by his teammates, Lett spent the first 10 years of his NFL career with the Cowboys from 1991-2000. The defensive tackle from Emporia State was named to the Pro Bowl in 1994 and ’98 and finished his career with Denver in 2001.
Lett went back to school and graduated less than three years ago from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a degree in university studies and a concentration in sociology and history. He was the defensive tackle coach for the University of Louisiana at Monroe before he went to camp last season with the Cowboys.
ARLINGTON — Tony Romo doesn’t care about winning in style. He’s leading the Dallas Cowboys to victories, and that’s all that matters.
Romo overcame a pair of early interceptions by throwing two touchdown passes to Laurent Robinson and rookie Dan Bailey made a 28-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Dallas Cowboys a 20-19 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Thursday.
The Cowboys (7-4) were never able to grab control, but also never trailed by more than six points. The defense gave up scores on four straight series, but limited the damage because three of those were field goals. They finally got a stop with Dallas trailing 19-17.
Romo took over on his 36-yard line with 2:59 left. He completed a few passes, then rookie DeMarco Murray kept grinding out yards and winding down the clock to set up Bailey’s winner.
“We did enough to give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.
This was the second straight game that Bailey ended with a field goal, and the fourth time he’s done it this season. The kick was his 26th straight made field goal, matching the second-best in club history.
It also was a measure of redemption for Cowboys fans, coming 18 years after the Dolphins won a Thanksgiving game on a last-second field goal following Leon Lett’s memorable gaffe on a snowy afternoon. This time, conditions were so balmy that the glass end-zone doors at Cowboys Stadium were opened for the first time all season.
Dallas won its fourth straight, continuing its best streak since a division championship season in 2009. The Cowboys also grabbed sole possession of first place in the NFC East, moving a half-game ahead of the Giants. New York plays at New Orleans on Monday night.