After being one of the hottest teams in the NFL a year ago, the Dallas Cowboys have struggled quite a bit in 2017. Surprisingly, the problems have come from every aspect of the game, offense, defense and special teams.
However, the defense is the biggest issue for this football team. That is a fact.
It doesn’t matter how much you argue whether Dak Prescott should’ve thrown that pass on second and one or not. Or if he should have slid at the one-yard line instead of scoring.
The truth remains that this is a defense that allowed Aaron Rodgers and his offense to drive the ball down the field to score a game-winning touchdown in less than a minute and a half.
And it isn’t just about last week. The Cowboys haven’t had a dominant defense for what feels like an eternity. Some blame the players, some blame the coaches.
For a long time, I’ve been reluctant to blame coaching. But now, I think it’s high time we take a look at Rod Marinelli being the problem for this defense.
Cowboys Nation has always defended Marinelli saying that he “has done more with less”, arguing this is a defense without talent from which Rod Marinelli has exceeded expectations every year.
To a point, this is fair. In 2014, the Cowboys were supposed to have the worst defense in NFL history and ended up being the 15th best in the league. The Cowboys finished their regular season 12-4 that year.
But to be honest, I think that we are underestimating the talent this defense has.
I understand that maybe the Cowboys don’t have the talent necessary to become an elite defense, but they’re not even decent. Rod Marinelli might be a great teacher, and we’ve seen it with a lot of projects he’s had over the years. But when it comes to coaching the entire defense, he probably can’t handle it.
Rod Marinelli uses the Tampa 2 defense a lot, which is a zone scheme. Players like Morris Claiborne, for instance, might’ve had better careers in Dallas if man-to-man coverage was used more often.
The Tampa 2 scheme also relies a lot on its defensive line to pressure the quarterback. This is why it seems like we never see a blitz by the Cowboys’ defense.
Looking at this Cowboys defense, I can’t help but wonder what the team can do with these players. Rookies Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis would probably benefit from playing man-to-man coverage more than zone coverage.
Byron Jones, Xavier Woods are players that could be great at blitzing with the athleticism they both have. Once Jaylon Smith is 100% healthy, he could be used in a lot of different ways, too.
This defense might not be great today, but it does have a lot of talent ready to be exploited. Rod Marinelli’s conservative approach to the game is not what they need.
I think however this season ends for the Cowboys, this will be Marinelli’s last year in Dallas. This team is very young and its talent shouldn’t be wasted.
There are a lot of directions this team can go if they decide to move on from their defensive coordinator. I think the most likely option will be giving linebackers coach Matt Eberflus the chance. He has done a great job with the linebackers and he could become a great defensive coordinator.
For now, let’s hope this defense finds a way to do just enough to help the offense win football games. The future of the Cowboys this season is as uncertain as it could be. They could turn it around easily, or it could go south really fast.
Maybe Rod Marinelli won’t be the only change we see in the coaching staff in 2018.