DAN RITCHRAMMSTEIN, GERMANY
I will be the first to admit I was ready to cut ties with J.J. Wilcox in the offseason. He seemed to be more of a liability than an asset. However, now he seems to have put it all together and is really contributing impact plays every week whether it is big stops at the line or pass break-ups. Has the coaching staff changed his responsibilities or the scheme this year to better fit his strengths?
Bryan:I was talking with Greg Jackson before a preseason game earlier in the year and he told me something interesting about Wilcox: it's easier to coach a player that is willing to be physical than it is one that is always playing scared. After studying his tape, Jackson really believed that he could help Wilcox with his game from a technique standpoint, and he has. The best example of this was the way that he was able to carry Jeremy Kerley out of the slot and knock the ball away on Sunday. In previous games, that route would have eaten Wilcox alive, but now he is able to make that play due to playing better technique and that comes from coaching.
Rob: I'm not sure his responsibilities have changed that much even though he's no longer in the starting lineup. The Cowboys view their safeties as interchangeable, so he's still finding himself in coverage and he made a key pass breakup on third down in the fourth quarter to protect a 21-17 lead. He's also playing around the line of scrimmage as you mentioned, and he's always been a physical player. Tackling has been better, too.
JAMES JORDANCONVERSE, TX
Now that the four game suspension is over for DeMarcus Lawrence, will the pass rush improve immediately?
Bryan:I think it will help but to say that Lawrence is the magic solution is yet to be seen. I will say that Lawrence is fresh and has been working hard so how quickly he is able to get up to speed should not take much time.
Rob: Lawrence is the best pass rusher on the team, so yes, the defense should get a boost. I'm not sure you can count on 60 plays from Lawrence right away – he hasn't been eligible to practice since the end of preseason. But Rod Marinelli acknowledges he needs more pressure up front and Lawrence will be a welcomed addition to the rotation. It'll be interesting to see if he gets some work at right defensive end with Tyrone Crawford recently moving outside to left defensive end, where Lawrence produced a team-high eight sacks last year.