A Dallas defense that allowed the second-most points in the NFL last season obviously has plenty of holes to fill.
The Cowboys would also represent a major talent upgrade for Rob Ryan.
Take a look at the Cleveland Browns’ depth chart. There is one defensive player who has been in a Pro Bowl. That’s talented but troubled nose tackle Shaun Rogers, who fell so far out of favor that he lost his starting job.
A couple of long-ago Valley Ranch rejects, defensive end Kenyon Coleman and safety Abram Elam, started for the Browns this season. Cleveland’s best pass-rusher was a second-year undrafted rookie named Marcus Benard. Two rookies (first-round cornerback Joe Haden and second-round free safety T.J. Ward) are the only Browns defenders who would be good bets to win starting jobs with the Cowboys. Haden is the only first-round pick on the Browns’ defense.
Given what Ryan had to work with, it’s pretty remarkable that Ryan’s unit ranked in the top half of the NFL in scoring defense (13th, 20.8 points per game) and turnovers forced (14th, 28).
In Dallas, Ryan would inherit a probable Hall of Fame outside linebacker in DeMarcus Ware. Defensive lineman Jay Ratliff, a three-time Pro Bowler, has proven he can be a dominant, disruptive force. Ryan would be guaranteed to have a pair of young first-round picks at cornerback and outside linebacker in Mike Jenkins and Anthony Spencer, and it’d be his job to get them back in 2009 form. He’d get a young linebacker with immense promise in Sean Lee. And he’d get significant input on how to fill holes in the secondary and defensive line.
Ryan has the reputation as a defensive genius, just like his father Buddy and twin brother Rex. In Dallas, he’d have the players to prove it.