Prior to the team's announcement earlier this month longtime defensive end-turned-linebacker Greg Ellis likely will not return to the team, cornerback Anthony Henry was traded, defensive end Chris Canty bolted for the New York Giants' as a free agent, safety Roy Williams was released, and one-year cornerback experiment Pacman Jones was suspended by the league before being dismissed by the team.
But according to cornerback Orlando Scandrick, those departures don't necessarily indicate a dropoff for the Cowboys' defense in 2009. There is an influx of new talent — linebacker Keith Brooking and defensive end Igor Olshansky signed as free agents and are expected to start, and the team loaded up on defensive players in the April draft — but Scandrick said the returning players are improved and should better fulfill their roles within the defensive scheme.
"It's the NFL — it's the same," he said when asked about how the dynamic has changed in the meeting room and on the practice field with Williams, Henry and Jones gone from the secondary. "Things are going to go on, whether they're or whether they're not. That's pretty much a given, so it's pretty much the same. We're all just focusing, trying to get better."
For his part, Scandrick said the biggest difference between his performance in the team's first two Organized Team Activities (OTAs) this season, and the way he performed at this time a year ago, is experience.
"Just having that year, knowing what I need to do to be successful — that's the biggest thing," he said. "Last year, I had just gotten here and didn't know anything. I was trying to learn from those guys, to do things the way they did them. I was lucky to have guys like that around who know how to play, and know how to practice, and were able to sort of show me the way to do things.
"I got some landmarks, some foundation to build on from last year."
Many players and coaches will say that a player's biggest improvement often will come between his first and second seasons, as he is able to mesh a year's experience with his natural athletic ability and skill to become a more complete player.
"I don't know that there's any one area — I just try to get better," Scandrick said when asked if he had a primary area of focus for his offseason improvement. "I'm stronger, and I know my responsibilities in the defense better, so those should help me be a better player."
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