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NFL Commentary: Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator, Monte Kiffin, Breathing New Life into Once Helpless Defensive Unit
The Monte Kiffin Era Has Begun In Dallas.
It's a common fact that organizations are always looking to upgrade their franchises when the off season comes around. Regardless what the sport or the level of competition may be, there are always positions and areas that teams are wanting to improve in.
Whenever there are significant changes made to any professional team; being coaching or player personnel changes, fans in a typical fashion express a degree of concern and skepticism. Before the 2013 NFL season began, one of the several concerns I had for the Dallas Cowboys was their defense.
Lets keep it real; It's not hard to fathom why any fan of the Cowboys would be a tad bit worried about where the defense would stand heading into this season. The brutal honesty is that the Cowboys defense hasn't looked all that good in recent years. This honest revelation has been one of the main reasons why the Cowboys have been a mediocre team at best.
The Dallas Cowboys organization made several key coaching changes for 2013 on both sides of the ball. It can be argued that several of those changes were made to address a defense that struggled to create turnovers under the guidance of former Cowboys defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan.
It appeared that Cowboys owner and general manger Jerry Jones had more than enough of the frequent blown assignments and botched coverage's the Cowboys defense displayed throughout the Rob Ryan era. Now Ryan is out, and the era of Monte Kiffin has now began in Dallas. Although the season is still young, this coaching change appears to be paying off thus far.
Kiffin's Achievements, and New Philosophy In Dallas.
Monte Kiffin is held in high regards among football circles. The 73 year old Kiffin has experienced success at both the NFL and collegiate levels of football both as a defensive coordinator, and as a defensive positions coach.
Some of Kiffin's achievements and accolades include a Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl XXXVII as defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also holds an NFL record for his defensive units ranking in the top 10 in yards and points allowed over a ten year period. Kiffin's achievements as a defensive coordinator are both impressive and admired by many football enthusiasts. However, I couldn't help express a bit of skepticism, especially with how bad the Cowboys defense has been in recent years. I was beginning to wonder if anyone could help fix the problems with the defense.
The Cowboys defensively for several years have had the personnel to do well. Talent hasn't been the problem. What seemed to be lacking was a defensive minded coach that would bring a philosophy the players would believe in and buy into. Rob Ryan, though not as accomplished as Monte Kiffin as a defensive coordinator, wasn't seen as a bad defensive coordinator. In fact, Ryan appears to be having some success this season with the New Orleans Saints. What the Cowboys defense lacked under Ryan was that discipline, coupled with a tenacity and fire for creating turnovers.
Enter Monte Kiffin, who has brought a completely new scheme and philosophy to the Cowboys defense. Kiffin's scheme has the Cowboys going back to a base 4-3 defense, which is what the Cowboys had success with in the mid 1990's. Kiffin's changes also have several key defensive players changing positions. One of those players is Cowboys All-Pro linebacker Demarcus Ware, who now is playing defensive end.
As I mentioned earlier, there is always a bit of worry when drastic changes are made. Normally, it takes more than one season for players to adapt to a new coach, a new mindset, and a brand new style of play. Surprisingly enough, it seems that the Cowboys defensive players have adapted well so far under Monte Kiffin's style.
Promising Play For 2013.
For all of the doubts I initially had of how improved the Cowboys defense would be this season, I personally feel that Monte Kiffin has helped breathe new life into a once lifeless Dallas Cowboy defense. True enough it's only been three games into this still new NFL season, but the Dallas Cowboys defense looks more active and rejuvenated under Kiffin. Don't take my word for it, just take a look at the statistics.
Week one of the 2013 season saw the Cowboys facing one of their division rivals, the New York Giants. Since the Cowboys started playing in AT&T Stadium back in 2009, the Giants have totally had their way with the Cowboys. Before the 2013 season, the Giants were 4-0 playing against the Cowboys in AT&T Stadium. That all changed when the Cowboys defeated the Giants 36-31 to start off this season. The victory psychologically was important for the Cowboys, but the fashion in which they won was what stuck out to me.
The Cowboys defense was the primary reason why they defeated the Giants. Dallas forced Giants quarterback Eli Manning into 3 interceptions in week 1. The Cowboys also finished the game with six total takeaways against the Giants. In 2012, the Cowboys defense had 16 total takeaways all season long, and they managed six in one game this year. Turnovers are often the deciding factor in which team wins or lose a game, and those takeaways forced by Dallas arguably were the reason why the Cowboys were able to claim the narrow victory over New York.
Still not convinced that the Cowboys defense is improved under Kiffin? The Cowboys defense also managed to make things rough for St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford in their 31-7 victory over the Rams in week 3. Bradford was sacked six times by the Cowboys, and spent much of the game hurried and uncomfortable.
The Cowboys defense currently ranks second in the league in rushing yards allowed per game(66.3). To add to the optimism and express the significance of Monte Kiffin, the Cowboys defense has managed to play well without defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, who has been out with a hamstring and groin problems. The Cowboys have also lost linebacker Anthony Spencer, who will undergo season ending knee surgery after appearing in only one game.
Will the Dallas Cowboys defense maintain a high level of play throughout the 2013 NFL season?
Still Early In the Season.
Now lets get down to the truth, because many fans of the Dallas Cowboys tend to get ahead of themselves after a few victories. Okay, the Dallas Cowboys are indeed 2-1 heading into week 4, but that doesn't mean there still isn't room for improvement. To be quite fair, most people don't consider the New York Giants, Kansas Chiefs, or the St. Louis Rams to be offensively gifted teams this season. I'll concede that thought is true, but I'm still going to give the Cowboys defense their just do anyway.
Whether or not your sold on the Cowboys defense, the Cowboys defensive personnel appears to be much more disciplined and focused now. As a fan, it's great to see a positive change. With every NFL Sunday that passes, it appears that the players are becoming more familar with Monte Kiffin's coaching mentality. Through three games, the Cowboys defense so far has generated 13 sacks along with 3 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles. These early numbers puts them on a pace to outperform their meager numbers from the 2012 NFL campaign.
If you're a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I suggest you keep your expectations in check. There are still questions as to whether or not the Cowboys defense will be able to sustain this level of play throughout 2013. It's still very early in the season, and there is a lot of football left to be played. However, it's clearly evident that the Cowboys defense is in much better hands under the tutelage of Monte Kiffin, which I'm sure is welcoming to the Cowboys fan faithful.