IRVING, Texas – Lost in the hub-bub of one vote of confidence was another on Thursday.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones caused quite a stir when he backed coach Jason Garrett to stay with the team into next season. But in that same interview session, Jones also leant a show of support to defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
Kiffin has come under fire in the past month or so, as he's seen his injury-plagued unit allow four totals of 500 or more yards and two different 600-yard games. But Jones said he's not disappointed in his defensive coordinator.
"No, I'm not at all," he said. "I understand his situation. I like, have liked for years, where he's trying to go with this defense."
The situation in question is likely the aforementioned injury bug. The Cowboys have dealt with losses at just about every position this season, whether it's been the rotating door of defensive linemen, the loss of Morris Claiborne and J.J. Wilcox in the secondary in October, or the recent injuries to linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant.
With Claiborne, Wilcox, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher all hopeful to return to action this weekend against the Giants, Jones said he feels confidence about the defense's prospects for improvement going forward.
"If we were going to have somebody take where we are with our personnel, for better or for worse, where we are in the bye week, what we need, adjustments we needed to make, getting these guys that are coming back ready – there's nobody in coaching I'd rather have managing all that than Monte Kiffin on defense," Jones said.
Asked Thursday morning, Jones and Garrett both were unsure who they'd be releasing from the roster after the signing of Orie Lemon from Arizona's practice squad.
The team gave its answer Thursday afternoon with the release of cornerback Micah Pellerin. The young defensive back played two games with the Cowboys after signing from the practice squad on Nov. 2.
Pellerin was called up to help offset the losses of Claiborne and Wilcox in the secondary. He made one tackle in the two appearances.
It's possible Pellerin could be re-signed to the Cowboys practice squad, though he would have to clear waivers on Friday afternoon.
Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher is preparing to play this weekend with a neck roll to help guard against a recurrence of the stinger issue that kept him out against the Saints.
He said last week the extra padding was a likelihood and he worried about the neck roll affecting his athleticism, but he's more accepting of it now.
"We've got a neck brace on, neck whatever it is, so it won't let it happen again," Hatcher said. "I can just tee off and play football, and I don't have to worry about it no more. Hopefully we can just keep progressing and no setbacks and I'll get back to being me.
"It looks pretty intimidating, I'll tell you that. It looks intimidating. Hopefully I can play like I look."
Hatcher has been listed as limited the last two days of practice this week, as he gets contact for the first time since the recurrence of the injury.
"It was very important just to have the confidence in my stinger," he said. "It didn't blaze back up this week, so hopefully it doesn't in the game."
Being last in the league on defense obviously doesn't sit well with Barry Church.
It's impossible not to take notice that the Cowboys are last in the league in total defense, allowing 439.8 yards per game. They're last in the league in passing defense and 29th in rushing defense after letting Mark Ingram go off in New Orleans. [embedded_ad]
"It's definitely not easy to forget," Church said. "Those numbers are just ridiculous, but you've also got to take into consideration we are second in the league taking the ball away from teams. There are pros and cons, but we've definitely got to bring that number down. That number's ridiculous."
A lot of the struggles have to do with their lack of starters on the field. That's caused players to get out of position trying to worry about other players' responsibilities.
"You've got to be able to trust in your teammates as well," Church said. "That's what we've got to work on. Some of the times, people will try to do more than what their role is supposed to be. So, I mean, if we can get through that and trust in each other and trust in the system, we'll have a pretty good shot out there."
It'll also help that the Cowboys will likely get back Jason Hatcher and Morris Claiborne. Church said the defense will be able to do more things particularly in man coverage with Claiborne back.
"He's looked great," Church said. "There's no gimp in his stride. He isn't hitching or nothing like that, and he's been out there playing great in one-on-ones, competing really well." -Rowan Kavner