Reviewing The First Half Struggles On Defense

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FRISCO, Texas – Suffice to say, the criticism has been plentiful through the first half of this strange season.

Given the injuries and the 2-7 record, not to mention some of the performances that helped create that record, it's understandable. But for all the intensity of that criticism, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones seemed to think it's been fairly accurate.

"We didn't get it done from the standpoint of those guys coming in and joining the younger guys and making the transition that we wanted to make," Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 FM The Fan. "I think y'all nailed that. You've said this defense looks like the guys are having to think too much and do the things that might not be as natural as you would like to have them."

They have shown signs of improvement in the last few weeks, but defensive lapses have been a consistent theme in the first year of Mike McCarthy's head coaching tenure. The Cowboys have struggled to adapt to the scheme under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, as they currently rank in the bottom 10 in total defense and dead-last in scoring defense.

Most troubling of all of that, as Jones alluded to, has been their No. 31 run defense, which has seen them allow staggering rushing totals of 208, 261 and 307 this season.

To hear it from Jones, that goes back to another fair criticism: the Cowboys' inability to improve their defensive line over the offseason.

"We really tried to bolster up the center of our defensive front," he said. "We didn't get it done because of a combination of things – injuries, the production of Poe and guys like that."

The Cowboys released Dontari Poe two weeks ago after one of the more ineffective stints in recent free agent history. The team's other big defensive line addition, Gerald McCoy, ruptured his quad tendon during the first week of training camp and never got the chance to contribute.

Speaking of training camp, Jones said that was another component. In a year marked by the strangeness of COVID-19 protocols, the Cowboys quite simply haven't seemed to gel as well as others – especially in a year that they're incorporating new schemes.

"We've missed taking these new guys – every other team had to, too, but we missed it by not having training camp and by putting those guys out there and asking them to do some things that they hadn't been doing," Jones said.

It won't do much to make anyone feel better, and it definitely won't do anything to improve the record. But at the very least it's interesting to see where the Cowboys have come from. It'll be even more interesting to see if they can continue building on their improved performances before the bye week.

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