Bigger issue?

RUN DEFENSE
PASS DEFENSE

Many issues with run defense

Watkins By Calvin Watkins
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

This is pretty easy.

There isn't much to debate.

The Cowboys' run defense is something to worry about during the last few weeks of the season. Of the Cowboys' five remaining opponents, starting with the Oakland Raiders on Thursday afternoon, four rank in the top five in the NFL in rushing yards.

Only the Chicago Bears, the Cowboys' Monday night opponent Dec. 9, rank worse at No. 21. But Bears starter Matt Forte is sixth in the league with 851 rushing yards. And while Forte recently suffered a knee injury, do you think if he's not available that the Cowboys will be able to stop his replacement?

Coach Jason Garrett said that the issues with the run defense vary. It could be that the rotation of defensive linemen is preventing guys from finding a groove because they're in and out.

The physical nature of playing up front could be wearing down some of them, such as Nick Hayden, Jarius Wynn, Everette Brown and Drake Nevis along the defensive line.

Injuries to defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and end DeMarcus Ware have also slowed down the group.

The linebackers are missing Sean Lee in the middle and Justin Durant at the strong side. Ernie Sims has struggled replacing Lee, while Bruce Carter, maintaining the weakside spot, has been inconsistent.

Opponents have gained at least 200 rushing yards three times in 2013 against the Cowboys' defense, and there doesn't appear to be a letup.

How embarrassing was it to see an aging Brandon Jacobs get the longest run of the day for the Giants, 37 yards, against this Cowboys defense?

While you expect things to get better for the defense when Lee and Durant return, the opponents should also pick things up.

The Cowboys don't have much confidence that they can stop the run. Yes, they have some talented players and veteran coaches, such as line coach Rod Marinelli. But the production on the field, at least against the run, is lacking.

The run defense likely will continue to struggle Thanksgiving Day. And if it doesn't improve soon, it could end any hopes of the Cowboys' making the playoffs.

Pass defense allowing big plays

Taylor By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

IRVING, Texas -- You can live with a raggedy run defense. It's much harder to survive in today's NFL with a raggedy pass defense.

So don't worry about the Cowboys' run defense. Concern yourself with the bad pass defense and whoever had the bright idea to go into the season with three cornerbacks.

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

See, you can live with a bad run defense as we saw this week against the Giants, because giving up 200 yards rushing doesn't automatically mean giving up a lot of points.

The Giants ran up and down the field but scored only 21 points. Earlier this season, Washington rushed for more than 200 yards, but scored only 17 points.

The Cowboys won each game.

Most long runs don't result in touchdowns; most long passes do. The game is about the quarterback and all of the rules have been altered to make throwing the ball easier.

So when you give up big chunks of yards in the passing game those plays usually lead to touchdowns.

The Cowboys have allowed four 400-yard passers this season, and if New Orleans' quarterback had wanted to add his name to the list he could have. Eli Manning is the first elite passer the Cowboys have controlled this season -- and that had considerably more to do with the frigid conditions and gusting wind than the Cowboys' pass defense.

For now, Chicago's Jay Cutler, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Philadelphia's Nick Foles are the only quality passers still on the schedule. Cutler and Rodgers are each hurt, but it would surprise no one if they were in the lineup by the time they play the Cowboys.

If so, Dallas' odds of beating Chicago or Green Bay will go down. Cutler and Rodgers are each capable of attacking the Cowboys' safeties and slicing up the Cowboys' secondary.

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