Dallas Cowboys Training Camp: All about the “D”

Barry Church is the only "guaranteed" starter for the Cowboys secondary. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs
Barry Church is the only “guaranteed” starter for the Cowboys secondary. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs

By Zach Walker

Every year, the period of time between the draft wrapping up and training camp starting seemingly swells to a point in which it feels like football won’t return. The Rangers are beyond struggling and are almost unwatchable when Yu Darvish isn’t pitching, and besides the Mavs making moves, it’s all filler pieces on the major sports sites, and it’s making people watch recorded games on their DVRs and golf. But all that’s over, it’s time to show up and do work, and I’m here to spread the word that this season is going to be different, this season is going be good. The same brand of “only found here” excitement, now with less let down.

Everyone looks at the Dallas Cowboys defense and expects another fall on their collective face season, but I say the younger, the better. Losing Jason Hatcher to Washington is the negative, because I consider the scheme change and the fact that he was in a contract year, to be the reason for his flare up in production. And DeMarcus Ware was in a health tailspin and a change in location and routine will benefit both Ware and enable the Cowboys to put all effort and attention into developing his replacement, DeMarcus Lawrence. Although, Sean Lee’s injury is a knife to the gut, I can’t think of a better opportunity for Bruce Carter, who had a particularly terrible season, to step up and really take the reins of this Marinelli defense and put 2013 far in the past.

The motto of this Dallas Cowboys defense should be “Step Up and Take It,” because there really isn’t a position on this defense that is bolted down, with the exception of Barry Church at safety. The other safety position will likely rotate the two sophomores JJ Wilcox and Jeff Heath, with it being Wilcox’s job to lose, but don’t overlook the seventh round pick Ahmad Dixon as a rotation safety. The Cornerback position is where I feel most fans can’t get behind this defense, because of the return on investment. Brandon Carr is in need of, at least, a very solid year or the Cowboys might do something drastic. Then, on the other side is former sixth overall pick Morris Claiborne, who might need to have an even better year than Carr, if for any reason, just to build confidence, and if he can play like he did in last season’s showdown versus the Eagles, I’d say that great things are coming from Claiborne. No worries with Orlando Scandrick, who has definitely been the rock in the secondary for his entire career.

The linebacker position is a full blown mystery, on par with Scooby Doo, because it’s a fun house with Sean Lee out of the lineup. It really hinges on how well Bruce Carter comes out swinging. I heard a ton of mixed bag reviews following the draft in regards to Anthony Hitchens, but what they all eluded to was that he will not run out of gas, that he doesn’t give up on plays, and that he actually tackles, which is a welcomed sight. DeVonte Holloman showed great range in the preseason, a season ago, then when thrust into games late in the season, he improved on a game to game basis. Justin Durant needs to continue to rack up tackles and be solid against the run. Kyle Wilbur should help round out the main rotation of linebackers, and helps with his versatile size to play down or playing linebacker.

That just leaves the defensive line, the final third of the defense, and a group was ravaged with injuries forcing the Dallas Cowboys to play over 25 different linemen. Like the linebackers, the defensive line is shrouded in a blend of mystery and potential. Anthony Spencer and George Selvie are really the only ends with multiple years of NFL level pass rushing experience, and are likely going to be leaned on early while Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence grow into their game. The “Blue Turf tandem” of Lawrence and Crawford, are going to need to grow up quickly, but I’d go as far as guaranteeing DeMarcus Ware circa 2013 numbers, that is, six sacks a piece, and I don’t think that’s a stretch of possibility. The fact that the Cowboys traded up, with Washington, to get Lawrence says to me, that the staff believes Lawrence can be something special. The Cowboys didn’t blow up the free agent pool, but they did address a serious position of need, defensive tackle. Henry Melton showed great ability in Chicago before getting injured and if he can stay healthy and return to form, he could be a serious cornerstone piece to build a defensive front around. The Cowboys also plucked Amobi Okoye out of the pool, likely to start along side Melton. But if last year taught the Cowboys anything, it’s prepare to use your depth, and the Cowboys are again deep along the line. Nick Hayden and Jeremy Mincey are each seven seasons seasoned, but the Cowboys aren’t without youth. Ken Bishop, Ben Gardner, Dartwan Bush, Davon Coleman, and Chris Whaley are all rookies.

All I know is that youth is essential and if the Dallas Cowboys were the worst defense in the league a season ago, how does dumping two 30 plus year old players not improve the team.