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Cowboys pass defense helped by '11 schedule

IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys are banking a lot of their defensive improvement in 2011 on new coordinator Rob Ryan.

The schedule should help, too.

In 2010, the Cowboys allowed 33 touchdown passes and had the 26th ranked pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks had a 92.7 passer rating. The Cowboys went up against some of the best quarterbacks: four finished in the top 10 in passer rating and five of the top seven in terms of passing yards. This is not to make an excuse for what happened in 2010 because the defense allowed Jacksonville’s David Garrard to have a Hall of Fame day with four touchdown passes.

In 2011 – provided there is a full 2011 season – the Cowboys will go against three of the top 10 quarterbacks in terms of passer rating (Tom Brady, Michael Vick, Josh Freeman) and only one in the top seven in yards (Brady).

They could end up with seven games against teams breaking in new quarterbacks, too. Buffalo, Seattle, Miami, Washington (twice), Arizona and San Francisco are in the quarterback market either in the draft or free agency.

With St. Louis’ Sam Bradford, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford (if healthy), Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets, the Cowboys will see three of the better young quarterbacks, but that is better than a crew included Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub and Michael Vick in 2010.