IRVING, Texas -- One game didn’t make a trend, Wade Phillips told us while defending his defense’s lack of turnovers forced in the season opener.
Well, what about four games? The Cowboys have created turnovers in only one of those games. Not coincidentally, it was the week they won.
What about 20 games? The Cowboys rank dead last in the league in turnovers forced (24) since the start of the 2009 season.
As the defensive coordinator, Phillips has to shoulder a fair share of the blame. However, as defensive as he’s been when the subject is broached in press conferences, turnovers have been a point of emphasis in practice. So what’s the problem?
“I know what it is,” strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh said. “I don’t want to speak on it.”
That’s fitting. Why should the Cowboys’ safeties touch the topic of turnovers when they can’t touch the ball?
One of the primary reasons Ken Hamlin was released is because he didn’t make any plays. The front office and coaching staff believed that promoting converted cornerback Alan Ball would fix that issue.
It’s time for Ball to prove he can make plays. He has a grand total of zero career interceptions. He doesn’t even have a pass deflection this season. Sensabaugh also hasn’t even gotten a finger on a pass yet this season.
The Cowboys have blown some turnover opportunities this season. As pickless cornerback Terence Newman said, they're leaving plays on the field. Cornerback Mike Jenkins’ dropped pick on a deep ball against the Titans comes to mind. Linebacker Keith Brooking laid out to almost make a spectacular pick off Vince Young but didn’t come down with the ball.
“We just have to start making the plays, be in better position,” Brooking said. “I don't think you overreact with it. You can get yourself out of position, give up extremely big plays if you press too much with turnovers.
“But you have to play with great technique, and when you get in position you have to make the play.”
Added cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who has one career interception: “When we’re playing sound, it’s a little tougher. But we’ve got to get it done. I’m not making excuses. None. It’s nobody’s fault but our own.”
A scheme that creates as much pressure as Phillips’ ought to result in a defense that at least ranks middle of the pack in turnovers. At some point, players have to make plays.
The Cowboys’ defense just doesn’t have enough playmakers, especially in the secondary. If they want to prove that statement wrong, Sunday afternoon against NFL picks record-holder Brett Favre would be a pretty good time to start.