By Shawn S. Lealos
With the release of safety Will Allen on Oct. 8, the Dallas Cowboys are starting to try to figure out what is wrong with their defensive unit. Allen had 17 tackles on the season, as well as an interception in the season opener, but had since lost his job to rookie J.J. Wilcox. That was just one step in what Dallas will need to do to step up and fix a defense that ranks near the bottom of the NFL.
In total defense after five weeks, Dallas ranks 30th in the NFL and 31st against the pass. Only the Denver Broncos, who Dallas played in Week 5, rank lower than the Cowboys in passing defense. That would explain a lot when looking at the 51-48 score of the team’s game this last weekend.
On the other hand, Denver ranks second against the run while Dallas ranks seventh. The question to ask is why any team would need to run the ball when they can just throw it all over the field.
After missing the playoffs in 2012, Jerry Jones decided his big move would be to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The Cowboys finished 2012 ranked 19th in total defense as well as 19th against the pass and 22nd against the run. They gave up 355.4 yards a game in 2012. In 2013, they are giving up 409.2 yards a game.
Tony Romo threw for 506 yards and five touchdowns in the game with Denver and Dallas still lost. Part of it was the interception that Romo threw at the end, but more than that, it was because of the points the defense surrendered. While Peyton Manning can score against anyone this season, this defense also gave up over 400 passing yards to both Eli Manning and Philip Rivers as well.
When asked about his defensive collapse this season, Jerry Jones has been quick to take up for new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, saying he needs to be “cut some slack.” Fans might have a differing point of view. It seems like Jones’ attempt to fix his team actually made them worse, as the Cowboys defense gave up 1,023 yards over the last two weeks.
Jones comments were based on the fact that Denver is so good, but that doesn’t explain the rest of the season. There is the fact that Anthony Spencer just went on the IR after being the best player on the 2012 defensive unit. Jay Ratliff is still on the PUP list. DeMarcus Ware is playing injured. Morris Claiborne is struggling and both Will Allen and Bruce Carter lost their starting jobs.
There are stars on this defense. DeMarcus Ware and George Selvie are solid on the defensive line, and there is hope that Ratliff will be back soon. Sean Lee is still a star linebacker, but the men surrounding him are iffy. The secondary has only Brandon Carr as a legitimate star and Dallas has to hope that Claiborne finally turns things around.
However, whether Jones wants to cut Kiffin some slack or not, the Dallas Cowboys defense needs to figure out what is wrong quick because Tony Romo can’t win this by himself.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.