Rob Ryan is heralding his defense again. Last year after arriving in Valley Ranch, Rob Ryan declared the Dallas Cowboys the best defense in the NFL. A brazen declaration that left even Dallas Cowboys fans bamboozled by such a comment by this odd looking long haired gentleman.
Of course as the season unfolded we found out that the Dallas Cowboys were not the best defense in the NFL. This of course game as no surprise to Cowboys fans who long knew the secondary was a glaring hole in the defense. The Dallas Cowboys were 23rd against the pass allowing 244.1 yards per game. They were better against the run (7th allowing 99.1 yards per game) and middle of the road ranking 16th in points allowed.
And Rob Ryan is taking the brunt of the blame for that disappointing season. He blames himself for throwing too much too quickly at his players overwhelming them with a new system. Ryan accepted responsibility for bad play calls, and took the entire blame for the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles squarely on his shoulders. He thinks his “all-hype” comment might have provided extra motivation to their divisional foes.
“Those guys had been beaten down so much that, in my opinion, I don’t think they had the confidence to go forward,” Ryan said in a vain effort to explain his praising of his new defensive unit. So Ryan’s bragging last year was an attempt to inflate fragile egos but he also pumped up expectations, in a sense setting them up to fall short. Maybe he could’ve chosen his words more carefully to do one and not the other. And as a result Ryan is one of several scapegoats finding blame for the 8-8 season that fell short of the playoffs by losing twice to eventual champions New York Giants down the stretch. Including giving up a 12 point lead at home with 5 minutes left in the game.
“That’s OK,” Ryan said. “Hey, keep the target on me this year and see what happens.”
Dallas fans in part forgive Ryan because they were not so high in praise for the personnel he had to work with, but Ryan won’t blame the players.
“I don’t know, it’s a hell of a lot better than what I had in Cleveland,” he said.
But Dallas fans know otherwise. The secondary at both inside linebacker and secondary was glaring holes. At inside linebacker Bradie James was aging, but a young player named Sean Lee came into his own and really established himself in the middle of the defense. They also added free agent linebacker Dan Connor, another young 26 year old entering his prime who racked up 75 tackles last year. But there still was the secondary. Terence Newman was always getting beat, and Mike Jenkins was underachieving since his single Pro Bowl season, though he was injured at times.
But Jerry Jones in arguably one of his best off seasons ever was very un-Jones like. Jones has always tended to go for big names not concerned with chemistry and signed players whose best years were behind them. First Dallas cut Terence Newman and replaced him by signing free agent Brandon Carr. Carr is a 4 year veteran out of Kansas City but many believe he is just coming into his prime, he just turned 26 years old. His production was similar to Newman last year in terms of statistics but they are on opposite sides of the curve of an NFL career. Newman also had a tendency to get beat deep.
Then the Cowboys brought in safety Brodney Pool, a player who has spent time in Ryan defensive systems. Then Jones not satisfied traded up in the draft to acquire Morris Claiborne in the NFL Draft. Claiborne was considered the best defensive player in the draft and the highest-graded cornerback on their draft board since Cowboys legend Deion Sanders.
Not to mention the Dallas’ D still has one of, if not the best pass rusher in DeMarcus Ware who is 0.5 sacks away from 100 on his career, and a four time Pro Bowl nose tackle in Jay Ratliff. The Dallas defense is aiming to be a top-10 defense this season. And being average would be an underachievement for a much improved squad.
“I know one thing: I’m happy as hell with what we’ve got here,” Ryan said. “I’m going to say it again: If we play the way we’re capable of, then we’ll be shutting a lot of people up. And there’s a lot of them to shut up out there. A ton of them.”
Ryan isn’t declaring them the best this time, instead putting them in the role of the underdog. I like to see Ryan running his mouth about shutting people up and proving themselves. That chip on the shoulder is what this defense needs.