Auping: Defense Is Thriving By Keeping Receivers In Check

The past few years NFL fans have been told that it has become a "passing league."

The statistics back up such a claim. Not coincidentally, Cowboy fans had lost their patience the past few years with the team's inability to stop the passing game of teams with dangerous receiving threats. And, to be fair, the statistics backed up such frustrations.

But another statistic has emerged in the 2012 season that Cowboy fans can relish. Through three weeks of the season, the Cowboys are the only team left in the NFL that has yet to surrender a touchdown to a wide receiver.

While it has only been three weeks, this is still an impressive feat especially when considering the history of the Cowboys' secondary in recent years. The image of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks celebrating in the end zone in the season finale of 2011 is still fresh in the mind, along with routinely high passing yardage racked up by opposing quarterbacks.

But coming into this season the Cowboys made a concerted effort of addressing their issues in the secondary by bringing in veteran cornerback Brandon Carr and trading up in the draft to select Morris Claiborne out of LSU.

There's a saying in sports (and in life) that you get what you pay for. Well, the Cowboys paid a high price to sure up their secondary: $50 million to Carr and a second-round pick in trading up for Claiborne. Since fans and media would most certainly be bashing both of these players, as well as the Cowboys, for acquiring them if their performances were sub-par, it is only fair that they get their due credit for what they have accomplished.

Cruz, Nicks, Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson have all managed to find the end zone this season as you might expect. All of them failed to find it in when they faced the Cowboys, though.

The secondary will have another difficult task when they attempt to contain Brandon Marshall of the Chicago Bears on Monday night. Marshall is a big, physical receiver with 34 career touchdowns to his credit.

In an interesting contrast, the Cowboys have managed to surrender a touchdown to a tight end in all three games this season. This would seem to imply that the Cowboys' linebackers and safeties are struggling at times in coverage.

Yet still, in a league full of dangerous receivers, to be able to prevent wide outs from scoring is a huge advantage for a defense. However, if this statistic doesn't impress you or seems like some sort of coincidence then there is a much more obvious defensive stat that is hard to argue with: The Cowboys now have the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL in terms of yardage allowed.

It is true that breakout safety Barry Church has been a key member of the defense's success and the Cowboys will have to be creative in replacing him. Church's strength was run defense, so I'm sure the Cowboys hope their passing defense will not miss a step without him. Anytime you lose a valuable starter for the season, the rest of the defense has to be even sharper moving forward to make up for the loss.

No matter how much you nitpick, the numbers don't lie. It certainly seems like the Cowboys defense, particularly the secondary, has come a long way.

What a difference one offseason and a couple blue-chip players can make.

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