By Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd
The suspension of cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones is a blow to the Dallas Cowboys' secondary, which already is missing cornerback Terence Newman and safety Roy Williams. However, it is not a knockout punch if defensive coordinator Brian Stewart plays his cards right.
While Jones sits out (at least four games), Dallas will start Anthony Henry and Mike Jenkins on the perimeter. Though Henry, who has played safety some this year, isn't a No. 1 corner, he has the size to match-up with big receivers and the speed to turn and run in man-to-man schemes. That's a huge asset for the Cowboys in light of all the other losses on the back end.
And how about Jenkins? Well, he's a rookie. The jury is out on whether he's ready to play every down, but we'll find out soon. He'll be facing tougher matchups and a wider variety of receivers and formations. Opponents will go after him, try to exploit his inexperience and hope to expose a weakness. Jenkins, a first-round pick in April's draft, is smooth, quick and fast. The talent is there. But at 5-foot-10, 197 pounds, he can be pushed around a bit by bigger receivers and will be a target in the run game.
The good news is that lately Stewart has had plenty of practice covering up holes in the secondary. He has experimented with single-safety three-cornerback personnel groupings, even opening the Arizona game with the package against a two-tight end formation. But Stewart no longer has the flexibility to move Henry off the perimeter, so Jones' absence likely will further limit his play calling and maybe even his pressure schemes. The personnel shake-up not only strains the Cowboys' depth in the secondary, but also forces Stewart to put players in new roles.
In any case, Stewart almost certainly has to dial down the aggressiveness. Look for more four-man rushes, fewer blitzes, and more two-high safety looks (man-under two-deep, five-under two-deep, quarters). With fifth-round rookie cornerback Orlando Scandrick and second-year cornerback Alan Ball filling the nickel and dime corner positions, the Cowboys can't afford to take a lot of chances when opponents spread the field.
This much is certain: It's a defining moment for Dallas' designated pass-rushers such as linebackers DeMarcus Ware, Greg Ellis and Anthony Spencer. And that group will need more help getting penetration from nose tackle Jay Ratliff and the other linemen. The Cowboys have the personnel to create enough four-man pressure to get the secondary through this. Now it's time to show it.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.