Football is officially back! The ‘Boys reported to camp in Oxnard on Saturday and we finally get our first taste of anything resembling big-boy football since February. The Cowboy-Homer in me wants to say Super Bowl or bust, but the realist in me is popping the balloons. As Training Camp gets underway, let’s review the current state of the Defense to get an idea of what we can expect for 2016.
Time heals old wounds, so they say, but sometimes it can also can create new ones. Unfortunately, the latter appears to have happened. Back on April 1, the defensive outlook was much different than what we now have:
April 1 Outlook: All we need to do is make it to week 5. That’s when we should get Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory back. We’ll have Maliek Collins back from his injury, everything will be fine. We stole LB Jaylon Smith in the 2nd round, and although he won’t play this year, he may be the future of this team and it’s going to be awesome watching him next to Sean Lee next season. In the meantime, we have Rolando (Ragonk) McClain to fill that Mike Linebacker spot on a cheap 1-year deal again.
Well, Collins will be back by week 5 and Lawrence appears to be on the right path to returning as well, but Randy Gregory – not so much. After failing yet another drug test (BEFORE EVEN SERVING HIS PRIOR 4-GAME SUSPENSION) he now isn’t likely to be back until week 15 or later, if at all. He will not be a factor this year and now there is no logical person who thinks McClain will even play a snap after apparently gaining 40 lbs. abusing a barbiturate cocktail commonly known as “Purple Drank”. The outlook has diminished quite rapidly. McClain is an outstanding talent and if you can’t have him holding down the middle, you would like to have someone like him. Unfortunately, the Cowboys found a guy with the wrong ‘McClain’ trait in Darius Eubanks. After a couple days on the Cowboys roster and a few non contact drills, Eubanks decided he didn’t want to play saying he wasn’t in good enough shape. The Cowboys have since released him. Now, Justin Durant is back and will likely play the Mike in order to keep Lee at the Weak Side (Will) Linebacker spot. Lee had his most productive and safe year last year which resulted in a Pro Bowl berth, so trying to replicate that is ideal. The last linebacker prospect the team brought in is a Canadian linebacker by the name of Henoc Muamba. They went to Canada for a linebacker (that should tell you about all that you need to know). Bottom line, if you know Durant, Lee, Anthony Hitchens, Mark Nzeocha, Kyle Wilbur and Andrew Gachkar, you’ll be fine.
However, the Secondary does have the potential to be a bright spot of the defense, IF AND ONLY IF the front 7 can muster anything that remotely resembles a decent pass rush. Orlando Scandrick looks like he is ready to play after missing all of last year with a torn ACL. Morris Claiborne is back and looks like he has something to prove. And don’t forget Byron Jones, in the Safety spot, holding down the fort alongside Barry Church. But what gets me excited, however unmerited, is the addition of Anthony Brown (CB, Purdue). The kid is quick (4.35 40 yd) and his film is impressive. Although, without pressure, even the best secondary groups in the league will look like amateurs.
This Defense has A LOT of holes, but if the new and improved offense evolves into a ball-hogging ground-and-pound unit, the Cowboys may be able to limit the defensive vulnerabilities and squeak by in close games, similar to the 2014 squad. In other words, our Offense may just be our best defense this year…
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