SAN ANTONIO, TX
What does Jerry Jones mean by saying that the defense needs to take more risks? Does it mean they need to blitz more, or play more man coverage?
David: I've been trying to figure out what Jerry meant by this since he said it. The Cowboys already focus on getting turnovers, which means doing risky things like going for strips instead of tackles and going for picks instead of breakups. How much more risky can they play, especially if they already look this bad? I suppose they could blitz more. Maybe they'll use more of their heavy nickel formation with Barry Church as a linebacker – especially if Sean Lee is unavailable. Honestly, they had a shot at three takeaways last night and didn't capitalize. I'm not sure if taking more risks is really going to do much for them.
Rowan:Probably the former. They tried to blitz a couple times without any success. But they need to figure out something to reach the quarterback, even if that does mean sending an all-out blitz and leaving the corners to fend for themselves in one-on-one man [embedded_ad] coverage. The lack of pressure on the quarterback has allowed teams to pick the defense apart. They're not going to succeed until they start bothering the guy behind center, and since the personnel isn't changing, the scheme and the way they attack offenses will have to.
The Cowboys coverage defense is awful, regardless of the pass rush. Do you see anything that can be done to help?
David: It's a pretty fundamental truth of football that an effective pass rush can mask a lot of deficiencies, so I disagree on that front. If the Cowboys could consistently generate some pressure, we'd probably see the numbers improve some. I don't know if they're capable of that, so I'll say this instead: I'm not trying to say Morris Claiborne is a game-changer, but having him healthy for the last three games – if not, at least the last two – could be significant. It's not so much that he's a lockdown corner, but his availability puts less of a strain on inexperienced guys like B.W. Webb and Jeff Heath in coverage. Having Claiborne manning one half of the field may also free up Orlando Scandrick and Sterling Moore to move around the field and cause some problems.
Rowan: I don't know if that statement's correct. Any team's coverage defense would be awful without a pass rush, and so that's what needs to be done to help. The players aren't changing dramatically. The personnel guys will do what they can to keep cycling capable players in, but Deion Sanders and Darren Woodson aren't walking through the door anytime soon. The best the Cowboys can do is try to find ways to get to the quarterback quicker, allowing the corners and safeties less time to have to stay with receivers. That, and avoiding zone coverage as much as possible, would help.