Despite the departure of several defensive starters, Cowboy fans can still remain confident that the defense will find a way to get off the field in the 2015 season.
The most important person for Dallas’ defensive unit doesn’t wear a uniform, and he doesn’t play one down. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will bring out the best in each player on his defense. His leadership in 2014 rewarded him with a new three-year deal to remain on the Cowboys’ staff.
Marinelli joined the Cowboys prior to the 2013 season as the defensive line coach under coordinator Monte Kiffin. A Cowboys team that allowed 27 points per game finished with an 8-8 record and second place finish in the NFC East. The defense was consistently shredded by opposing quarterbacks, even by the likes of Josh McCown and Matt Flynn.
It was a minor miracle that Dallas had the opportunity to win the division with a week 17 win with a historically horrendous defense. They surrendered a franchise high 6,645 yards during the season, good for 3rd worst in NFL history. This disappointing season under Kiffin resulted in Marinelli’s promotion to defensive coordinator.
With low expectations heading into the 2014 season, Marinelli sought to improve one of the Dallas defenses that was projected to be the worst ever. His job would only be more difficult with the departure of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, combined with Sean Lee’s season ending ACL injury.
The Cowboys defense exceeded all expectations in 2014, and Marinelli was receiving high praise all throughout the NFL. This defensive genius coerced career years from several players.
Jeremy Mincey emerged as a defensive captain and led the team in sacks (6) and quarterback pressures (39). Twice-retired Rolando McClain became a force in the middle of the field. Tyrone Crawford quickly developed as a run-stopper on the defensive line.
The Dallas defense lacks the big name players and intimidation factor, but Marinelli brings out the best in his unit. He preaches effort and team defense. His men attack the ball carrier with tenacity.
Jerry Jones has already begun his makeover of the defense, which has plenty of holes to be filled. Justin Durant is a Falcon. Bruce Carter and Henry Melton are Buccaneers. DeMarco Murray, who was responsible for dominating the time of possession and keeping the defense off the field, is an Eagle.
Thus far Dallas has added three new linebackers to the squad. Former first-round pick Keith Rivers signed a 1-year deal. Jasper Brinkley and Andrew Gachkar agreed to 2-year deals.
These aren’t signings that jump off the page, but they add depth and experience to a defense that sorely needs it.
Although the Cowboys may not make a big splash in free agency this offseason, Dallas is confident that Rod Marinelli can lead this defense to the Super Bowl.