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55) Who Becomes The Focal Point Of The New-Look Defense?


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 will take a different question each day that is hovering over this team.

With 55 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question centers on the emotional side of the team makeup:

55) Who becomes the focal point of the new-look defense?

Linebacker Lee Roy Jordan is unquestionably one of the greatest players in Dallas Cowboys history – there's a reason his name sits in the team's Ring of Honor. The Excel, Alabama, native finished his 14-year career in Dallas with 743 solo tackles, 1,236 combined tackles, 36 interceptions, five Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl ring.

Jordan's onfield credentials are unquestionable. But there's also plenty of credit to give for his impact on the psyche of what became known as the "Doomsday Defense." He played in 186 games during his career and tallied up only a handful of missed games in more than a decade, establishing him as a leader and driving force behind the defense.

With the Cowboys transitioning to an entirely new style of defense for the first time in nearly a decade, it seems like a fair question to ask where that leader will come from now?

The easy answers are out there: DeMarcus Ware will have a case for a Ring of Honor ceremony when he calls it a career. He's entering his ninth season with the Cowboys – nearly all of which have been played at a Pro Bowl level – and he's going to become the team's all-time leading sack artist in 2013, barring an unforeseen setback.

It remains to be seen how Ware will transition in his first season as a full-time down lineman, however, after the switch to a 4-3 scheme.

Sean Lee is another obvious candidate as the middle linebacker and primary play-caller. Of course, as mentioned earlier in the countdown, all eyes will be on Lee's ability to stay on the field.

There are other names as well: Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer, Brandon Carr and Will Allen all come to mind. None of those combine the bullet-proof combination of production and experience that Ware boasts, though.

But a new scheme is a new chance to make an impact. This new defense has a way of making household names of workman-like players: Ronde Barber, John Lynch and Derrick Brooks spring to mind in Tampa Bay. Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman made headlines in the same defense in Chicago.

Whether it's an established star or a newcomer, the Cowboys need someone to take the reins in this system as well.

Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 55:

  • There's no doubt it's Jordan when it comes to great players to wear No. 55. He's also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
  • The Cowboys once combined for a franchise record 55 points in the first half in a loss to the Raiders – of Los Angeles, at that time. The Raiders entered halftime with a 31-24 lead on the Cowboys on Oct. 23, 1983, thanks to the help of a 318-yard day from quarterback Marc Wilson. Dallas took a fourth quarter lead thanks to a fumble returned for a touchdown, but a pair of short field goals late in the game gave L.A. a 40-38 win. It was the Cowboys' first loss of a 12-4 campaign.
  • In another classic bout, the Cowboys and Redskins once combined for 55 first downs in a 41-35 overtime win for Dallas in 1999. Troy Aikman threw for 362 yards and five touchdowns to overcome a 35-14 deficit and force overtime. Once reaching the extra period, he found Raghib Ismail on a 76-yard bomb to get the win.
  • No. 55 hasn't been a kind draft pick to the Cowboys in the past. Guard Jim Eidson, cornerback Aaron Mitchel and offensive tackle Solomon Page were all taken in the slot, only for none of them to pan out in the long run.
  • That said, Sean Lee was taken 55th overall in 2010. He certainly seems to be living up to expectations to this point.
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