Secondarily Speaking

Hats off to Jerry Jones and the entire organization. Instead of running from or denying the blemish, they set out to remedy the problem.

They were rolling the dice heading into the 2007 season, and they were literally banking on the health of both Terence Newman and Anthony Henry to pull them through. Unfortunately, neither provided the necessary elements of consistent and quality "corner play." Injuries claimed both during the 2007 campaign, and the "gambled depth" did the Cowboys defense in. The flashing lights started with the New England Patriots visit to Texas Stadium. The multi-receiver sets spelled doom and gloom for the home team. They weren't positioned correctly to win a shoot-out with the AFC champs. The exposure came early and continued right on through the year, ending in more of the same in mid-January.

The Cowboys weren't necessarily countering every Washington Redskins receiver selection in the recent NFL Draft, but suffice it to say, they made a statement that spread offenses weren't going to be their undoing in 2008. Those bright smiles out the Valley Ranch way belong to Wade Phillips, Brian Stewart and the newly-reinvigorated Dave Campo, who will be entrusted with "righting" the Dallas Cowboys secondary. The word was "righting" and not reviving. They weren't dead, but they weren't stellar either. Campo has been given both tools and weapons, and Jones and Phillips know there wasn't a better "teacher" out there. Brett Maxie should consider himself most fortunate to be studying under the Professor of the Deep Third. What was considered the Achilles Heel can now be looked at as a potential strength within this team. The secondary has seen an infusion of talent and speed...two deadly elements in today's game.

If Wade Phillips and Brian Stewart were to come clean, off-the-record, they would tell you last year's defense is not quite what they had in mind when taking their respective jobs at the beginning of the 2007 season. Sure, they implemented the new scheme and started to teach the nuances to the troops. While the unit was very effective during the year and registered production over and above the Parcells' regime, it was still playing short-handed to what it could ultimately be.

Think not?

Let's watch the developments heading into the 2008 season. While the front seven was very productive and disruptive, they weren't turned loose with regularity and confidence. The numbers show marked improvement from the 2006 squad, and that's a great sign for things to come. It means the scheme was grasped pretty quickly by very bright and athletic players, but the best is yet to come. Parcells's approach to defense did not fit this collection of personnel. Jones knew it, Phillips knew it, and the players all knew it. They were not allowed to play to physical and athletic ability. That's why Phillips and Stewart came licking their chops. There was only one real question mark, and it surfaced it's big, ugly head right from the "get go" last year. Newman hobbled and down goes Henry early. Worst fear realized, front and center. Having to turn to Jacques Reeves and Nate Jones, especially after having let go of the veteran savvy known as Aaron Glenn, it was going to be an all-out struggle to dominate on the defensive side of the ball.

Were Reeves and Jones brutal? No, far from it, and that's why they found employment within the AFC ranks for 2008. They were good, but not good enough to carry this team deep into the playoff fray. The Giants put on a mini-New England display, but the secondary wasn't the sole downfall in the divisional playoff game. They didn't help matters much, but there were other contributing factors that day. The truth is band-aids rarely fix the broken leg. Reeves and Jones are bone fide back-ups (in short spurts) and good special teams' players. The Cowboys badly needed more. The extended absences of Newman and Henry bit the Cowboys hard. The bite did not go unnoticed, and more importantly, unaddressed. The 2008 offseason was dedicated to fortifying a unit which could easily be one of the League's elite units for the upcoming season. As a side note, not only were the cornerbacks' ranks solidified, the Cowboys, at the same time, added new life to the special teams' return units.

Jones and company took the boldest and riskiest venture on first. Nothing like walking head-on into the storm, but that's Jerry's nature and calling card. He wouldn't have it any other way. The organization, through a very complicated and intricate trade, extended a welcoming hand to very gifted and previously-troubled Adam "Pacman" Jones. Can you say feast or famine? This, undoubtedly, will go down as the most-watched and analyzed acquisition of and within the Jerry Jones' legacy. It's the true, Webster's definition of risk/reward. It personifies everything that is Jerry Jones. Commissioner Goodell willing, it will produce in the same fashion and generate the returns tied to all the business ventures of the Jones' family. It's what separates them from the norm and thrust them into billionaire status.

Contractually, it was the most prudent of all deals, and Adam Jones is going to have to earn his play and pay. He must perform to reap any financial rewards, and those financial rewards may not come fruitfully until a few years down the road. What the Cowboys have done is harnessed the wildest of stallions. With Pacman in the corral, Jerry is banking on his League-renowned players program and player personnel to "break" this gem of a playmaker down to a pure team contributor. Rest assured the other 31 teams in the League are praying Roger Goodell extends Adam Jones' suspension another calendar year.

Why?

Game changer, game breaker. In the blink of an eye. Without the ball, he's dangerous, and with the ball, he's lethal! Whether it's an interception or a kick return, he's a legitimate threat to take one back, for points, at any time. He will bring a dimension to the Cowboys' defense and special teams they haven't experienced since Deion Sanders roamed Texas Stadium. Yes, he can be THAT good. Stay tuned as this story is yet to be told, and it could become a best-seller.

The greatest aspect of the Adam Jones acquisition was the timing. The pursuit in no way deterred the Cowboys organization from their designed Draft plan. Had the trade been consummated on Draft Saturday instead of Draft Sunday, would Mike Jenkins be a Cowboy? Damn straight. Pacman or no Pacman, the Cowboys were going corner early in the 2008 Draft. Yes, those are applause you hear in the background. Sure, the Terence Newman extension is almost complete, but does that mean he's about ready to become fat, happy and content? It could, but Terence Newman is not looked at in the same light as a Shaun Alexander. Terence Newman is nervous (the good kind), and he should be, but not as much as Anthony Henry should be quaking in his cleats. When it comes to secondary security, it's "Game On."

The beauty of the corner landscape is it doesn't start and end with T-New, Henry, Mike Jenkins and Pac. Before it's all said and done, the likes of Alan Ball, Evan Oglesby and new-comer Orlando Scandrick (watch this guy) will have something to say on how the roster ultimately shakes out. The competitive battle in Training Camp will be well worth the price of admission. Oxnard will be the site of a very-talented team trying its best to get over the extremely dry gulch known as the proverbial playoff drought. The best way to catapult over the dreaded past? Competition!

Every corner will need to arrive in California with more than the "A" game, and with half these guys possessing return skills, there will be highlight reel moments in late July. Outside of NFL receiver, who walks and talks with more bravado than the NFL corner? Suffice it to say, no one! The finest of athletes will be on display, and the atmosphere will be intense, if not volatile. Do you think NFL Films has already targeted this group as a "Hard Knocks" front runner? It will carry more storylines than any TV series, soap opera or manufactured Reality TV.

So, once all the show business nonsense ends, it will be show time, and the Cowboys will be potentially fielding the finest stable of NFL corners seen in quite some time. That has to excite many; opposition quarterbacks excluded. The happiest of all recipients? The sound money is on DeMarcus Ware. Could the "money" contract have come at a more opportune time for the Cowboys' best defensive player? There is a reason the Cowboys are trying to get T-New extended right here and now, and Terence Newman is no dummy. He will sign, and the Cowboys offer will be more than fair, because the "cheap labor" will be gunning for serious playing time. Thus, get what you can while the gett'n is good. Can you seriously imagine a more-motivated and throttled-up "D" Ware? Hey 9-4, with corner coverage firmly in place, we're about ready to turn you loose.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Cowboys' defense is about ready to erupt, and we haven't even touched on Zach Thomas (coming soon) and the "X" factor he will bring to this year's ranks. Cowboys' fans, you can never fault Jerry Jones for not trying to put the necessary pieces in place for championship contention. If it wasn't there already, the crosshairs have been squarely affixed to Wade Phillips and Brian Stewart. The tackle box is fully-loaded, now go catch something!!

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