Rob Ryan is walking the walk

IRVING, Texas -- After three games, the Cowboys' defense is second against the run, 12th vs. the pass and fifth overall. The pass rush, an issue at times last year, has 13 sacks, second in the league.

When defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was hired this spring to take over a poor defense, he said things would get better and the Cowboys would finish 2011 as the No. 1 unit in the league.

So has Ryan walked the walk?

"I mean, hell I hope so," he said after Friday's practice. "I think we can be playing better, but hell we're doing a pretty good job. We got to keep getting better each week. I promised you no excuses from the start and we haven't had to make them and we're not going to, and we're going to get better each week."

Ryan tells his defensive players not to play scared. He preaches playing with confidence because he wants opposing offenses to worry.

Sunday, the Detroit Lions provide the biggest challenge to the Cowboys' defense thus far. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has the third-best quarterback rating in the league and is fourth in completions and is tied for second in touchdown passes. Then there's standout wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

Overall, the Lions are tied for fourth in passing offense.

"I don't think we're scared," Ryan said. "We're never scared, we'll be ready to go; no reason for us to be scared on defense. I think some other people can be scared of us, and that's what we want to be and be a defense that plays that way. But fear never comes into [my mind], maybe be afraid of all our success we're getting ready to have. That never comes into my mind anyways, so I'm sure it doesn't with our guys."