FRISCO, Texas – No one is going to come out and say it in Week 5, but it's easy to sense that there has been a disconnect here.
Monday, in the wake of the 49-38 loss to Cleveland, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy allowed that it's natural for players to revert to techniques that have helped them in the past when things are going poorly. During his weekly Tuesday morning radio interview, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said his players need to trust the scheme their coaches are asking them to run.
"I judge the talent by what we're asking them to do, what the schemes are asking them to do. They need to do it," Jones said. "They need to do it in unison. They need to basically execute the scheme and the plan and let the plan, trust the plan. Trust the scheme."
There's no need to finger point when one can simply turn on the tape. The Browns now stand out as a historic opponent for this organization, as their 307 rushing yards on Sunday are the most ever allowed in one game by the Dallas Cowboys. It's clear there's a lot to improve upon.
From Xavier Woods' standpoint, it can start with better communication. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the Cowboys' fourth-year safety said defenders can do a better job of knowing their assignments – or perhaps more importantly, knowing each other's assignments.
"That's the bottom line: All get on one page, communicate," Woods said. "When we're talking about breakdowns, communication, us not lining up correctly or us not seeing things between two people the same way. If one's wrong and the rest is right, then we're all wrong."
That's a sobering reminder about defense in the NFL. If 10 of 11 guys do their jobs correctly, there's a good chance a big play is about to happen. And over the past few weeks, the number of guys handling their assignments correctly has looked much smaller than that.
Given the struggles in recent weeks, there's been talk of the defense being too complex under first-year coordinator Mike Nolan. But again, Woods indicated that it's not about the scope of the defense, so much as making sure players are in sync in executing it.
"It's just got to have to be on one page in each coverage," he said. "Different coverages, guys have to be on one page. You can have too much, but I don't believe it's too much. You're going to have to lock in and communicate."
McCarthy said Wednesday morning that there are moments of indecisiveness that show up on tape. He has said numerous time this week that the Cowboys need to do a better job of carrying over the teaching points from the week into the game on Sunday.
"I just think it's part of football. I mean I think it's anytime you have a transition whether it's a scheme or technique. I think those are the natural hurdles you have to get over," he said. "We're all disappointed that we're not over those hurdle with more consistency."
Whatever the reason for the disconnect, it's too early to finger point. Asked about the best way to fix the issue, Woods was inclusive. It starts with better communication, from every direction.
"Everyone. Coaches, players we got to be on one page," he said. "They install it, but as players we're out there on that field, we're the ones playing and we're at the end of the day, we're going to be the ones held accountable because we're the ones out there playing and we're the ones that have to put that into action."
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