Secondary is Primary

Well, one week in and Cowboys' Faithful have tabbed one side of the ball Super Bowl ready and the other headed straight towards the glue factory.

No wonder doctors do very well in locales containing high numbers of Cowboys' fans. Nowhere will you find more sprained knees and wrenched necks. In the world known as the Cowboys, it's all about extreme and snap reactions. With the offense apparently hitting on all cylinders (think again) and steaming towards every NFL scoring record known to man, let's attempt to fix the Toilet Bowl phase of the operation.

In case no one has noticed, the defense struggled mightily Sunday night. All seem to be clamoring, "What in the world happened to the Phillips' vaunted 3-4 defense?" Believe it or not, it was right there for nationwide viewing. It just didn't produce the expected or desired results. Evidently, it was by design.


The absence of Terence Newman and Greg Ellis, not to mention an early departure of veteran nose tackle Jason Ferguson, caused the Cowboys to alter (substantially) their scheme. Injuries are part of the game. Unfortunately, teams must factor this element in and design a game plan around the available personnel. A coach must play to the strengths and weaknesses of situations presented. The Cowboys defense was nowhere near full strength, and its deficiencies were exposed on the national stage with the bright lights glaring.

The Cowboys attempted to protect and assist CB Jacques Reeves. Zone coverage, complete with safety assistance, was supposed to bolster both the confidence and performance of the first-time starter. According to Head Coach Wade Phillips and accentuated by game ball issuance, Reeves performed adequately. While this may indeed be the case, adequate is not nearly enough, especially moving forward. Possibly by design, with hopes of easing into things, the time (hopefully this weekend) must come when the training wheels must be removed from Jacques Reeves' security cycle. The Cowboys should be procuring the removal wrenches, but can they afford to?

Simply put, they better! See, this organization made the conscious decision to outright release veteran cornerback Aaron Glenn. Would Aaron Glenn have received the same scheme adjustment and personnel assistance provided to Jacques Reeves? Highly improbable. So, why was Reeves a recipient? If he was deemed sufficient enough to supplant a 14-year veteran, why wasn't he trusted to "man up" on the opposition receivers? Why did he receive over-the-top (although poor) assistance? Didn't the Cowboys tell everyone he was at least Glenn's equal by releasing the veteran?

The preferred defensive scheme calls for aggressive, heads up and single coverage by the defensive corners. The pressure Wade Phillips and Brian Stewart desire does not work without this approach. Miami presents the perfect opportunity for Reeves to attempt some solo work. Chris Chambers can be a hand-full, but as a unit, the Dolphins' receivers are a less formidable group than the Giants who seemingly gobbled up acres of Texas Stadium real estate. It's high time for Reeves and the Cowboys to show releasing Aaron Glenn was a prudent personnel decision. Reeves has to go up against some of the best NFL receiver talent every day at Valley Ranch. It's now necessary for the young man to both step and man up.

Keeping with the theme of tinkering with the secondary, does anyone have a new set of wheels, preferably of the super-charged nature, for Newman's counterpart, Anthony Henry? Truth be told, Henry must "muscle" opponents to be effective. He's not fast, and the attempted catch-up/pursuit of Plaxico Burress in Sunday's 1st quarter exemplified this very fact. Don't confuse Plaxico Burress with the definition of NFL burner. He's not. Height and hands are a given, but speed is not his game. Henry, who actually appeared to be galloping after Burress, was badly embarrassed while being acceleration challenged. Whether safety help was called for or not on the play, Anthony Henry is a liability on the chase. Mr. Henry, please attempt to keep all plays in front of you. If Mr. Newman returns, the crosshairs are headed Henry's way. Get ready.

The bravado and brashness have been there since the Arkansas days, and they seem to remain today. Neither trait is looked upon negatively until it leads to stupidity with game implications. It's hoped Ken Hamlin's momentary lapse of sanity in Sunday's 1st quarter was more exception to on-field behavior than the norm. The Cowboys cannot afford or allow these types of antics. It didn't substantially cost the Cowboys on Sunday night, but any future reoccurrences could prove costly. What might have happened if Hamlin decided to pull his head-slap stunt on the Roy Williams' 4th down stop of Jared Lorenzen? Players, regardless of position or name recognition, cannot afford opponents additional chances. Knuckle headedness is intolerable, and while Mr. Hamlin attempts to erase this weapon (detrimental) from his arsenal, he might want to replace it with something called proficient tackling.

Everything mentioned previously falls into the "correctable" category. The next item is an area which might not be coach able or correctable, and it's a major, major issue.

Is Roy Williams disinterested in football? Someone needs to determine this and get a bead on it quickly. Equate it to body language or general pursuit, Roy gave the impression to the layman eye that he didn't want to be participative Sunday night. Harsh and wayward? Counter if you can. There's respect for Wade Phillips' position of having his players' backs, but it's hoped the meeting rooms contain "call out" sessions of the highest order. It's not the fans' place to know who exactly was at fault on a particular play or coverage, but someone on the coaching staff better get it figured out.

Lack of passion and disinterest are the worst of NFL player traits, and once they settle in, they can cost an organization. Big time. Roy is a different player than he exhibited his first two years in Dallas. It's believed Wade Phillips and Brian Stewart have a desired plan for Roy, and due to Terence Newman's absence, haven't been able to yet get there. Fine, but once there, a fire better appear somewhere within #31. The motivation and weight loss in the off-season were highly-encouraging and seemed to pave anticipation way. Something happened on the way to Happy Trails. For the time being, let's chalk it up to change in plans (Newman's absence) or dislike of Sunday night games, but Roy's accountability leash grows shorter by the minute.

It's high time for the big hit, game-changing, Pro Bowl inviting demeanor to stop hiding behind past reputation and recognition and actually "earn" a Hawaiian plane ticket for stepped up and impact performance throughout the year.

The issues are all secondary-oriented, but when assessing the defensive challenges and shortcomings, they are primary in regards to priority. Wade, it's time to implement the self-proclaimed "fix it" moniker. Like the secondary impact, your hire was also primarily-based and predicated on elevating an underachieving defense. Time to get to work.

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