IRVING, Texas– As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.
Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full seasons removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding them as they prepare for the 2013 season.
As we count down the days to camp, the writers of DallasCowboys.com will take a different question each day that is hovering over this team.
With 53 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question centers on the lack of sparkle in the secondary:
52) Who Can Fix The Interception Tally?
Where have you gone, Mel Renfro? Or at the very least, what about your production in the Cowboys' secondary?
Fifty-two days away from training camp, it jumps off the stat sheet that Renfro, the Cowboys' Hall of Fame cornerback, finished his 14 year career with 52 interceptions. He tallied seven picks or more in three of those seasons, including a 10-pick season in 1969.
As no one needs reminding, seven interceptions is as many as the entire Dallas secondary managed during an injury-plagued 2012 – tied with Kansas City for worst in the NFL. Even worse, the 2013 team is losing some of that meager production. Charlie Peprah is no longer on the roster and Danny McCray doesn't figure to be a starter this season, which leaves the defense with Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Sean Lee, who provided three, one and one, respectively.
Of the five safeties who will factor at those positions – Will Allen, Barry Church, Matt Johnson, J.J. Wilcox and McCray – only McCray has an interception as a Dallas Cowboy. Allen has four in his nine previous seasons, while the rest have yet to record a professional pick.
That isn't to say there won't be improvement, though. Church was lost for the season during just the fourth start of his career, Johnson didn't manage to suit up for a single game because of injuries and Wilcox is a rookie. On top of that, there's plenty of expectation for Claiborne to return to his college form, where he was a ballhawk, with a year of experience under his belt.
A common argument in this topic of conversation is the need for an improved pass rush. The Cowboys' 34 sacks in 2012 placed them in a tie for 20th in the league. Logic indicates that more pressure on the quarterback means more bad throws, which means more interceptions. But it's worth pointing out that only three of the NFL's top 10 sack leaders – Chicago, Green Bay and Tennessee – also finished in the top 10 in interceptions.
There's no question that any secondary wants as much help as possible from its defensive line. But the onus seems to be on the defensive backs to find a playmaker among them. Whether it's a veteran or a youngster, they need someone to start nabbing the ball.
Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 52: [embedded_ad]
- Since we touched on McCray, a special teams standout, in the preceding paragraphs, it makes sense to mention Jim Schwantz, a No. 52 who set the team record for special teams tackles in 1996 with 32. He earned a Pro Bowl nod in the process.
- The team's greatest No. 52 would be Dave Edwards, who held an outside spot in the Cowboys' linebacker corps throughout the 1960s and 1970s, when the team won its first two Super Bowls. Edwards missed just one start in an 11-year career.
- The Cowboys surrendered 52 points to the St. Louis Cardinals, which is the second-highest point total they've ever allowed and one of the uglier collapses in their earlier history. Dallas worked its way to a 20-14 lead against the hosting Cardinals at halftime. St. Louis erupted in the 3rd quarter and reeled off 38 straight points in what became a 52-20 rout.
- Games like the beatdown mentioned above helped the Cowboys set a not-so-good record in 1962. That Dallas team allowed 52 touchdowns over the course of a 14-game season – the most in franchise history. The Cowboys only held four opponents to fewer than 27 points that year.
- 52 points is also the team playoff record for highest point total, when the Cowboys pasted Cleveland 52-14 in the 1967 playoffs before losing to Green Bay in the Ice Bowl.