Following the woes of the past season’s defensive performance, we still want to place the blame on someone.
We have spent all off-season trying to comprehend what made last season’s second half defense so atrocious.
First, there was a growing feeling that Monte Kiffin was too old to run the defense, which is why he was not on the field to rally his troops, or even call a time out when the defense was in need of a pep talk. Instead, he sat in the upper box and relayed what he was seeing, or not seeing, down to the field. Fans were disappointed in what they witnessed in several late game performances. What qualities was he really bringing to the team when he replaced a popular Rob Ryan?
Then, there was the “no name” defensive line. The team suffered a rash of setbacks. After we lost Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass to season ending injuries, the stage was set for the revolving door policy on a much-depleted defensive line. DeMarcus Ware was not the same player he was in the past and after the first three games, he was just an average, injured defensive end. Kyle Wilbur came in for Ware early in the season but was not physical enough to get off his blocks once engaged. To Wilbur’s credit, the team moved him to a more natural spot at linebacker where he flourished and became a starter towards the end of the season. George Selvie, who was brought in to be a temporary replacement for an injured Anthony Spencer, was really the only bright spot of all the men to come in and try to fill the vacant positions. Jason Hatcher had the most productive season of his career, but his incentive was purely financial; as he played his heart out for Free Agent dollars. Nick Hayden was a decent rotational player but his game was not developed enough to be an every down starter.
Injuries plagued the linebacker corps again, too. Sean Lee was off to his finest season when his legs became tangled up on a tackle and that basically ended his year. Bruce Carter’s play depreciated. Ernie Sims looked lost in his assignments and was rarely a help for the defense. The rookie DeVonte Holloman suffered a neck injury in practice mid way through the season and missed several games, but he came back at the end of the season and did a decent job replacing an injured Sean Lee. Justin Durant’s season was also marred by injuries and he was off the field more than he was on it.
At the corners, Morris Claiborne has not lived up to his draft status and needs to get stronger. His inability to show up healthy is a huge concern. Brandon Carr’s game was up and down. Orlando Scandrick was the most consistent player at the corner position. It was the best season of his career.
Safety Barry Church came back from a serious Achilles injury he suffered in the 2012 season and showed why they gave him a contract extension-even after he was hurt. He played all 16 games and Bryan Broaddus even considered Church as having a Pro Bowl type season.
The team released Will Allen and the rookie J J Wilcox was gifted with the starting Free Safety job. Wilcox suffered some in the trial by fire (understatement). As if the challenges to jump up to the NFL were not enough on its own merit, Wilcox suffered a personal family tragedy and missed some time as he tried to recover. This threw free Agent Jeff Heath into the mix and he often bore the blame for the poor defensive performances. I did NOT see the same thing that the majority of frustrated fans saw.
Jeff Heath was often over matched just as he was in the Minnesota game, where Adrian Peterson ran over him on the four-yard line. I saw a player who was worn out as he was forced to into too many collisions because the front seven could not apply enough pressure and was vulnerable to the running game, a terrible combination. The evidence to this exists in the stats; a safety should not lead the team in tackles! Thank you for your dedication Barry Church.
Heath was also a core special team’s player. I thought his effort was outstanding.
Then there was Matt Johnson, who remains an unknown factor as he has yet to see game time action in two seasons.
It all comes down to this; conditioning has not been up to standards. Jerry Jones needs to address this and he needs to do it immediately. This team suffered too many injuries and often ran out of gas in the second half of games. If the team trainers cannot solve this problem, they should to be replaced. If the players are not prepared this season, there will be more “safety concerns” to deal with.