Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dallas' Young Gun Defense

Much has been made about Dallas' defense this year. The transition to a 3-4 scheme was considered risky given the personnel that the Cowboys had in place at the end of the year last year. What few people anticipated was the bounty of talent Dallas would draft defensively in April of 2005. In the first round, Dallas picked up impressive prospects Demarcus Ware and Marcus Spears. Besides those two blue chippers, the Cowboys added depth and quick impact rookies by picking up large & explosive Chris Canty and athleticly gifted Kevin Burnett. While Canty came with injury concerns, he has actually added more pop to the Dallas front 7 than 1st rounder Spears. With this talent pick up and the development of two other young players, Bradie James and Terence Newman, Dallas has persevered through growing pains and now has a flexible and formidable defense.

The draft gave Dallas depth to rotate complete units for the down lineman, giving more life to the older legs that anchor the defense. Newman was a high 1st round pick, which came witht he expectations of being a shut down corner. The surprise has been the development of Bradie James, which allowed Dallas to win while missing their defensive captain, Dat Nguyen. James had his coming out party on Monday Night Football as he had 12 tackles, 1 sack, deflected 2 passes and made one important block on McFlab. The knock on James was that he lacked coverage ability and pick up on play action(dumb). Coming out of college, he had great physical gifts: 4.71 "40", 400 lb bench, 32.5" vertical, and a love of the game. Dallas grabbed him int he 4th round in 2003, at 21 years old. Given three years under the guiding hand of Parcells and a mentor that is a human tackling machine, Nguyen, James has developed into a run stuffer who can cover as well. James manages to cover a 3rd WR if needed, yet still brings the heat on a blitz. His versatility allows him to play either the strong side or the middle, and with this year's draft class, Dallas can put him where they think he would be most effective. Because of his versatility, he could become the man to take over when Nguyen rides off into the sunset.

Dallas's success this year on the defensive side of the ball is a product of the stellar veterans they have and this year's great draft class but people should not overlook the development and prodcution of lesser known players. Bradie James is one of those players.

Update: Bill Parcells agrees with my thoughts on Bradie James' development. Here si the Tuna is his own words....
"I think he finally, I don't want to say finally because it is a process, ans some players it takes a little while to understand it. I think without reservation Bradie James understands how to do this now. And by "this" I mean quite a few things that entail being a professional football player. He knows how to do it, he's gained an understanding of what needs to be done to be successful. He has diligently worked toward that. Now, it was a process, when he first started out, he was an average special teams player but by the end of the year he was a very good special teams player. My experience has been that guys who do that usually succeed in the next area as well. It just took a little while, I think this system helps him a little but I don't have any doubts he could play in the other system now, I think this just suits him better now but he could play in a 4-3 system now....
.....Work has never been his problem. He is diligent, he doesn't have a lazy bone in his body. He's never been late for anything, never missed anything. He's a very good teammate, he's all of those things, you just got to learn how to do it and it took him a little while to learn. I think it will be onward and upward, hell, he was in on 15 tackles the other night. So he's getting some pretty good production. I'm happy with him, he's improved his pass defense, he can still play good on special teams, I think he's going to be OK."

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