Since the midpoint of last year, the terms “horrendous” and “Cowboys defense” have been synonymous in NFL circles. The defense in “Big D” ranked dead last in yards allowed last season, as well as 7th-worst in points allowed, and 8th-worst in total takeaways. After their Bye in Week 11, Dallas allowed at least 20 points in each of their six remaining games, and narrowly finished 3-3 to end the season, piggybacking on two wins over teams that would end up picking Top 5 in the 2014 NFL Draft (Oakland, Washington).
With the 2013 season in the rearview, most assumed the Cowboys would make some drastic changes to their defense heading into 2014. After some backlash to some errant Jerry Jones’ comments, then-defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, was replaced by Ron Marinelli. However, that might have been the only bright spot in the offseason.
In free agency, Dallas lost their staring match with All-Pro, future Hall-of-Fame pass rusher, DeMarcus Ware, who opted to join forces with Peyton Manning in Denver. They also lost Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Jason Hatcher, who signed with the division-rival Washington Redskins. The Cowboys did make somewhat of a “splash” in free agency, acquiring Henry Melton from the Chicago Bears, who was coming off a season-ending ACL tear. However, it was recently announced that Melton has been sidelined with a groin sprain, on top of still recovering from his surgery. There was hope that Sean Lee would return to his All-Pro form, after missing a good chunk of last season due to a handful of injuries. However, on May 27, Lee torn his ACL during Cowboys organized team activities (OTA). On the defensive line, standout defensive end (and former St. Louis Ram), George Selvie, was forced to have surgery on his shoulder back in January, and the Cowboys 2014 second round pick, Demarcus Lawrence, is expected to miss two- to three months with a fractured foot. Even the defensive backfield is in disarray for the Cowboys, with 2012 No.6 overall pick, Morris Claiborne, missing the preseason opener with injury and Brandon Carr missing the first 11 camp workouts and the preseason opener, after understandably getting time off to be with his dying mother.
So, what else could go wrong for Dallas?
Yesterday, it was announced that their “star” cornerback, Orlando Scandrick, would be suspended for four-games for violating the NFL performance-enhancing drugs policy. Scandrick jumped Morris Claiborne last season on the depth chart, finishing the season as the top graded defensive back on the Cowboys roster, according to Pro Football Focus. In fact, he led all Dallas cornerbackers in pressures, defensive stops, and pass deflections, all while allowing the fewest yards and yards after catch in coverage, between the two starters.
What does this have to do with the St. Louis Rams?
Last year, the Rams were embarrassed by the then-healthy Dallas defense. The offensive line allowed Sam Bradford to be hit 10 times, including six sacks, and watching their backfield, prior to the unleashing of Zac Stacy, get stuffed in the run game, accumulating a mere 35 total rushing yards on the day.
On Sunday, September 21, the Rams will get their shot at avenging that loss, taking on the Dallas Cowboys in the Edward Jones Dome in their finally game before their Week 4 Bye. The suspension of Scandrick means that the Cowboys already-weakened defense will be without their top linebacker, top defensive back, and, likely, top defensive end and defensive tackle. The mixture of St. Louis’ bolstered offensive line, stable of capable running backs, and added talent in the receiving corps, combined with the rash of injuries in Dallas should, theoretically, set the Rams up for success. Let’s hope they can take advantage of the situation.
Tags: St. Louis Rams