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 years removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding the team as they prepare for the 2013 campaign.
As we count down to camp, each day the writers of DallasCowboys.com will take a different question concerning the roster.
With 78 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question centers on the defensive coaches and the 4-3 scheme:
*78. *Are All Defensive Coaches Ready To Teach 4-3 Scheme?
When it comes to moving defensive schemes, teams must figure out first if they have the right personnel. Secondly, are the coaches in place to teach it?
Obviously the hiring of both Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli were the first steps. Marinelli is the defensive line coach who served as Chicago's coordinator the last few years. Kiffin has been around the block a few times, with 32 years of NFL experience.
But what about the other coaches? Last year, the Cowboys decided to hire Leon Lett on staff full-time and he was retained this year despite the overhaul.
Actually, this defensive switch might further Lett's coaching career even more, considering he not only played in this scheme, but was considered dominant during the prime seasons of his career.
The Cowboys might not have any "Big Cats" on their current roster that can match the skills of the old No. 78, but Lett should be more than capable of teaching guys like Jay Ratliff, Sean Lissemore and perhaps Jason Hatcher some of his tricks. While Lett is still learning from Kiffin and Marinelli, he isn't that far removed from his playing days.
The Cowboys are hoping to get better defensively by the switch. It's likely one of their coaches already has.
Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 78:
- One of the turning points of last season occurred on a 78-yard punt return by Dwayne Harris against the Eagles. With the score tied early in the fourth quarter, Harris fielded the punt and raced down the Cowboys' sideline untouched for a go-ahead touchdown as the Cowboys surged past the Eagles, 38-23.
- Former defensive back Dennis Thurman had a 78-yard interception return against the Cardinals back in 1980.
- Lett wore the No. 78 jersey longer than any other Cowboy, donning it for 10 seasons from 1991-2000. Before that, John Dutton held that distinction as the defensive tackle wore it for eight years from 1979-86. [embedded_ad]
- The 1978 seasonended in heartache as the Cowboys once again fell short to the Steelers, losing 35-31 in Super Bowl XIII. The Cowboys went from 6-4 to winning six straight games to close out the regular season. Convincing wins over Atlanta and the L.A. Rams in the playoffs set up a rematch with Pittsburgh, which had knocked off the Cowboys in Super Bowl X three years earlier. Jackie Smith's critical third-quarter drop in the end zone prevented a tie game and the Cowboys eventually lost by four.