FRISCO, Texas – Keep it simple, play fast.
Boiled down as basically as possible, that's the gist of Rod Marinelli's defensive scheme and how he approaches his duties as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator. The idea is that the less a player has to think, the faster he can react. The faster he can react, the more likely he is to make a play.
It's pretty straightforward, and that's fortuitous for a guy like Bené Benwikere, who needs to have it all figured out by Sunday night – just seven days after he arrived in Dallas.
"You just have to really get on the fly with everything," Benwikere said on Thursday. "Because, pretty much the defense, the install is during training camp."
Coaches spend months teaching schemes to their players during the offseason. Training camp and the preseason is for fine-tuning and tinkering. By the time the first week of the regular season rolls around, it's go time.
That is, unless you're a newcomer like Benwikere – or the dozens like him around the NFL. The Cowboys traded a conditional draft pick to Cincinnati on Saturday to acquire the veteran corner. Injuries have slowed Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, and this defense needs some added depth – preferably someone who can get up to speed quickly.
"Coming in, that's kind of the first thing they told me – 'Hey, you're not going to do a whole lot of extra thinking or extra craziness. We want you to set up and play fast. That's what we want you to do,'" Benwikere said.
It has to help that this isn't Benwikere's first go-around. He spent the first seasons of his career in Carolina. Since the Panthers released him last October, he has spent time with Miami and Green Bay, and he was with the Bengals from February until last week.
In that time, he's picked up some tricks on learning quickly.
"I think for me, where the biggest key is, is understanding the meat of what's going to happen during that game," he said. "First off, know your base calls – that's first and foremost. Try to get an understanding of what the coach would like to call in certain situations, and from there it's going to be about film study on the opponent."
Film study is a must, but the rest of it shouldn't be too bad. Benwikere said he's familiar with most of the concepts being asked of him here, it's just a matter of learning new terminology.
It remains to be seen if they'll need him. Awuzie has had a full week of practice, while Lewis is still working his way back to full health. The makeup of the defensive backfield is something the coaches will have to consider as they put together their game day roster.
If his name is called, though, Benwikere is doing what he can to make sure he's ready.
"For the most part I have most of it down, and if they really did need me to go out there, I can get through a game," he said.