Since the end of last season, there has been widespread speculation that the Cowboys would shift from their traditional 4-3 defense to a combination of the 4-3 and the 3-4. But according to DT Jason Ferguson -- perhaps the prize of the Dallas free agent class -- the shift might be even more dramatic.
Asked about the differences in his roles in his old defense with the
New York Jets and what he's being asked to do with the Cowboys,
Ferguson simply said, "well, it's a whole different defense, going from
the 4-3 to the 3-4." Told that head coach Bill Parcells has said the
team will utilize both defensive alignments, Ferguson's expression
switched to one of surprise.
"He did?" Ferguson asked. "I hadn't heard that. Everything I've heard
is about the 3-4 -- only the 3-4. But if that's what he says, I'm
Ferguson doesn't give the impression of a guy who has practiced just
three times with his new team. Already he is among the most vocal
players in the Dallas locker room, holding court with the gang of court
jesters known as the defensive line.
"This is a good group, a real good group," he said. "They're always
joking. You can't be quiet with a defensive line."
The ring leaders of the defensive line, Ferguson said, are DTs Leo
Carson, Jermaine Brooks and La'Roi Glover. But just because he's one of
the team's new faces, that doesn't mean he's still earning his place
among the defensive linemen.
"They've been great. They're really accepting me, making me feel
great," Ferguson said. "Part of it is that we're all learning the 3-4.
We're all learning together.
"In the 4-3, we (defensively tackles) play mostly one-gap -- just get
upfield and take care of one cap. To tell you the truth, I think every
defensive lineman will tell you he prefers the 4-3, because it's more
aggressive -- you can make more plays. In the 3-4, you have to be more
patient. You have to see the play and react. But you still can make
plays, and you have to make plays."
Whichever defensive alignment the Cowboys employ, Ferguson said he's
eager to get the season started.
"I'm here, and I'm happy to be here," he said. "I'm ready to do
whatever they need me to do."
When he was signed away from the Jets (who play the 4-3), Ferguson was
touted as the prototype to play the middle of the line in the 3-4. But
despite his experience, Ferguson said first-round picks Demarcus Ware
and Marcus Spears have not sought his advice as they adjust to the pro
"They came from the 3-4," Ferguson laughed. "I need to go to them with
One person from whom Ferguson expects to hear a lot, of course, is
Parcells, who drafted Ferguson for the Jets.
"He's going to be in my ear, regardless," Ferguson said. "If he's not,
that's when I'll get worried. You know he's going to shoot straight
with you. With him, you ain't got to worry about no curveballs."
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