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Enlightened32
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Where the Cowboys' defense is still weak

June, 15, 2012

Jun 15

2:30

PM ET

By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com

Of all the great players from the 1990s Dallas Cowboys glory days, Jean-Jacques Taylor writes, Darren Woodson has proved the most difficult to replace. The Cowboys may have overhauled their cornerback corps, but as they head into the 2012 season, that safety position remains a real question mark:

The position is important because the safety should be the quarterback of the defense, the guy who gets everyone lined up properly and makes the right adjustments based on the offensive formation, personnel and motion.

It helps the defense when one of its safeties is a thumper, a hard-hitter who makes others nervous when the ball is caught in the middle of the field.

A safety can also impact the defense if he excels at reading the quarterback and makes plays as a center fielder, knocking down passes that seem destined to be completed.

When the season begins, the starters at safety will be
, who's never been more than average, and either journeyman
or
, a former undrafted free agent.

Yawn.

My biggest current issue with the Cowboys as we look ahead to 2012 is that I don't feel they did enough -- if anything -- to upgrade any aspect of their defense besides cornerback. And yes, cornerback was their biggest problem in 2011, but it wasn't their only defensive problem. Swapping out Abram Elam for Pool feels like a rearranging-deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic kind of move. And if front-seven players like Jason Hatcher are looking around wondering where the team's leaders are, it's probably no coincidence that no one has been able to step forward from the safety position in recent years and fill that role.

The big things with defense in the NFL these days are pass-rushers and cover guys. The thought is that you can't have too many of either. The Cowboys added good cover cornerbacks in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, but they didn't add a pass-rusher, and I'm with Jacques in believing they still don't have what they need at safety. And I'm not sure they've done enough to make the leap to be one of the league's top defenses. They don't have to be the best defensive team, because they should be one of the best offensive teams. But they do need to be better at stopping opposing passing games than they have been the past two years. And while they worked hard on one aspect of that, there are others that still seem woefully under-addressed.

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Unfortunately, this is what you get when your head coach is really a glorified OC... you get a guy who spends all his time perfecting the offense, and spends his gamedays calling plays, instead of being an all around HEAD COACH... you know... managing BOTH sides of the ball!

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Unfortunately, this is what you get when your head coach is really a glorified OC... you get a guy who spends all his time perfecting the offense, and spends his gamedays calling plays, instead of being an all around HEAD COACH... you know... managing BOTH sides of the ball!

The idea in Dallas is that Garrett plans the practices and manages the offense. Rex Ryan is responsible for the defense.

The reason I said that "this man gets it" is that our defensive personnel is not as great as people want to say. As in, we arent as talented as people say. Ill argue tooth and nail when it comes to our offensive players. We have some the best in the league at the offensive skill positions, but our safeties are serviceable at best. The safety getting the most press in camp is rookie Matt Johnson, that should tell you all you need to know. I think we are average to above-average on the Dline, we are above-average to good at LB, we are above-average to good at CB, and we are average to above average at safety.

*EDIT*

JON

ORANGEBURG, SC

Hey Bryan, from the things you said about Matt Johnson, he's a pretty good all-around player. So why wasn't he one of the highest-rated safeties in the draft? What's his weakness?

Broaddus: I think there are some scouting services that are frankly lazy with their coverage. Nobody wants to take the time to watch a player from Eastern Washington when they can watch some stiff from some major program because he was a name. Teams knew about Matt Johnson. He was a productive player that was always around the ball. Look at his career numbers for interceptions and that will tell you a lot. I remember Darren Sharper at William & Mary – always around the ball and was picked by the Packers in the second round but I don't remember him being that highly thought of. Matter of fact, there were 14 defensive backs that were taken ahead of him. If Johnson does have a weakness, he is too physical of a player and will go for the big hit and not the wrap-up tackle. This is something that doesn't happen a lot, but I have seen it.

Interesting...

Edited by Enlightened32
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