The Dallas Cowboys defense showed improvements last year. This was a pleasant surprise. Rod Marineli deserves his fair share of credit, but the players took on this challenge and answered the call. New Defensive Coordinator, replacing your top two pass rushers, and not signing any big time free agent to bolster up the pass rush. This defense went from historically bad, and ranked last in 2013 to a ranking of 19th in 2014. This defense knows that is has the potential to be even better this year. With Organized Team Activities starting May 26, the work needed to accomplish that goal starts now.
As if overnight, the Cowboys have rebuilt this Defensive line. No more Anthony Spencer, George Selvie, and as of now, no Josh Brent. In the Cowboys mind, no problem. So pencil in Mincey and Lawrence at ends to start. Nick Hayden and Crawford in the middle. What is every bit of important, is having a solid rotation to keep these guys fresh without losing production. Depth isn’t an issue. The 2015 draft brought in Randy Gregory and Ryan Russell. Ben Gardner, Ken Bishop, Kenneth Boatright, and Devon Coleman look to impress and show why they deserve to be in this rotation. Chris Whaley and Jack Crawford are coming back healthy. Whaley sat out last year and has already caught the eye of the coaching staff and personnel. Crawford got the chance to play last year, but suffered a broken thumb and was put on Injured Reserve. Crawford has versatility and he knows what coaches expect from him.
What we know is that the Kraken, Greg Hardy will have to miss time due to a suspension that he is seeking to get reduced. DeMarcus Lawrence finished the year on a high note. The best defensive end last year was Jeremy Mincey. Rookies Gregory and Russell are excited to showcase their athleticism.
Injuries were a major concern even before the season started. The Sean Lee injury was the most crippling blow to this team, but they managed to salvage enough talent to keep afloat. Anthony Hitchens proved to be a play maker in his rookie season. He stepped in and played valuable time and all three linebacker positions. With Bruce Carter and Justin Durant now gone via free agency, new Cowboys will look to earn their keep and contribute to the team. Not only that, but the depth we build just might come in handy. Veteran Free agent acquisitions Jasper Brinkley and Andrew Gachkar would logically have the upper hand against rookies Damien Wilson and Mark Nzeocha. Brinkley is a great run stopper and Gachkar shows strong fundamentals. Experience versus athleticism. Gachkar has been solid on special teams. To make this team, the rookies will have to prove that they can be an asset in the coverage game. Kyle Wilber, who was brought in for the 3-4, had some nice plays last year. His development will be key to what role he has this year. A player with the most to prove is Cameron Lawrence. The four-year player has only been a special teams contributor. It is obvious that the team is looking to get more athletic at each LB position.
The secondary is undeniably the Cowboys biggest room for improvement. I am not sold on either safety spot moving forward. J.J. Wilcox showed flashed of being a solid player. Naturally, he is still learning. Trusting film sessions and letting the game come to him will make him a better player. Barry Church is still giving up entirely too many big plays. In this defense, the Safety can not afford to lose ground. He is going to be in coverage, and last year, he proved to be a liability. The Cowboys roster doesn’t offer much help. Jeff Heath has been the back up for the squad. Nothing special can be said of his play. CJ Spillman is versatile, but not really good at anything except special teams. He will never be more than what he is. The undrafted rookies that were signed have a solid skill set. Tim Scott sees the field well and closes on the ball quickly while Ray Vinopal plays with a chip on his shoulder. They will get their chances to showcase their talents come training camp.
Your starting Cornerbacks might have contract concerns, but they are the best you have. Byron Jones will get his chance to play Corner, and he may be one of the best coverage guys on this team. Morris Claiborne is still recovering from knee surgeries. If all goes well, he might be ready by training camp. Tyler Patmon will try to earn snaps like he did last year, and newcomers Jason Wilson, udfa from Central Michigan, and Corey White, free agent who played for the Saints last season will also compete for that fourth corner spot. White is believed to have the skills needed to work out of the slot. A slot receiver has more route combinations and field to work with. Defending the slot has become a huge priority for Defenses. Lately, Cowboys have put Scandrick, their best corner there. If White can produce, this frees up Scandrick to match up elsewhere.
The Dallas Cowboys have done a great job of bringing in the best talent possible. While their offense is still explosive, they understand that creating stops and turnovers is crucial in determining the winner of a game. The Cowboys will have to be tough, physical and mentally prepared. The competition that we see in camp will set the foundation for the entire season.