It’s no secret that the Dallas Cowboys defense was simply atrocious last season, and they completely dragged down an excellent offense that featured the dominant skill position trio of Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant, who were all among the best ten players at their respective positions in terms of performance last season. Not only did the Cowboys possess an anemic pass rush, but their safety play ensured that the secondary couldn’t hang with offenses either.
No upgrades were made to the secondary this offseason, but the Cowboys did at least make significant upgrades to their pass rush. Losing DeMarcus Ware hurts, but it’s mostly a sentimental loss. Not only was he far too expensive for the cash-strapped Cowboys to keep, but he was also ineffective last season amid injury and some decline brought about by his age. Demarcus Lawrence looks like an impact rookie, Jeremy Mincey is a solid sub-package pass rusher, Henry Melton is one of the best interior pass rushers in the game when healthy, and Anthony Spencer was a stud for the Cowboys defense before his very severe knee injury.
When asked about the defense’s prospects for next season, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stated that there is nowhere for this unit to go but up, via ESPN Dallas’s Todd Archer, “Because we were so bad last year, there’s no place but up.”
He added, We’re certainly better on paper than we were at the end of the season last year. Not on paper at the beginning of the season last year, but on paper right now relative to how we ended up last year.”
I think the always-optimistic czar is exaggerating the upgrades he made on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, but the message he’s trying to get across is clear. The Cowboys will have better coaching next season on that side of the ball, other guys can develop, and they have an upgraded pass rush. But at the same time, they will have a full season without Sean Lee as opposed to chunks of games without their best defender, and there isn’t much good to write about the secondary, unless if Morris Claiborne can turn his career around and Barry Church can consistently play well for a full season instead of just flashing. I have significantly more faith in the latter.