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Mailbag: Reasons To Be Optimistic About The Defense?


We all know that the defense was a big letdown last season, but is there any reason we can be optimistic about our defense in the upcoming season?

Bryan: Where you need to be optimistic is with the change at defensive coordinator. These players will only be as good as the situations that they are put in and after what Rod Marinelli observed with the struggles of some of his key players, Bruce Carter and Brandon Carr, I believe you will see him playing schemes that will allow not only those two players have better success but the defense as a whole. I think you also have to be optimistic about the depth you now have along the defensive line as well. That position wasn't able to take the hits it had injury wise in 2013 but it now appears to have some good, young bodies to now develop in the mix.   

Rowan: There are probably more reasons to be hesitant than optimistic, just because there are so many unproven players who will now play vital roles, but the main reason for optimism might be the youth movement and depth. The Cowboys got better with their depth this year and should have more players capable of competing for playing time and ready to step in when other injuries occur. They've also gotten younger, and the new-look defense has a lot of room to grow.

Will Rolando McClain be above or below Anthony Hitchens on the depth chart heading into training camp? Also, what do you think are realistic expectations for him heading into the season?

Bryan:Right now McClain is behind Hitchens and that is rightfully so. Hitchens has done nothing in these camps that should have him demoted in anyway. He has been comfortable in the scheme and spot on his assignments. McClain is going to have to prove that he can come in and learn where he fits in before he can take that spot away from [embedded_ad] Hitchens. My expectations for McClain is that he is a very talented football player and if that is all he is thinking about, then he has a chance to help this team as a physical point of attack player that can also help when he has to drop into coverage and defend the ball. If there is the slightest hint with that not being the case, if I am the front office, I move on completely and work to find better depth at the position. I am not married to Rolando McClain at all because I made this deal on my terms and not his.

Rowan: I imagine he'll start toward the bottom of the chart and work his way up. The expectation is that he competes to start at linebacker and eventually becomes a solid defensive contributor. The great part, though, is expectations don't really matter with this deal. If he makes the team and plays, all the Cowboys are doing are swapping sevenths. If he starts and plays most of the defensive snaps, the most the Cowboys lose is a sixth-round pick for a seventh. If he doesn't make the team, it's as if the deal never happened. He could end up being the most talented linebacker on the roster, though.

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