Jerry Jones, general manager and owner of the Dallas Cowboys will have important offseason decisions to make regarding the linebacker positions on Rob Ryan’s coached defense.
Far from the famed Doomsday defenses of old that previously ran rampant and created chaos for NFC opponents, the 2011Dallas defense did very little to live up to the historical prowess of yesteryear’s dominating defensive squads.
With the lone exception of Abram Elam, it appeared that early on in the 2011 campaign, Rob Ryan seemingly made strides with identical defensive personel that yielded the 2nd highest passer rating on average to opposing quarterbacks in 2010 behind the Buffalo Bills.
How could fans expect dramatic changes between seasons when everything remained the same defensively with the exceptions of Ryan and Elam?
Well this year things have to change and some of those changes will be forced changes due to the Cowboys NFC foes getting faster offensively and contracts expiring, especially at the linebacker position.
Dallas Cowboys current free agent inside linebacker, Keith Brooking seemed to reaffirm the rising talent levels of NFC east rivals by condemning the talent level of Dallas’ own defense by stating, “I don’t know if we’re as talented as everyone thinks we are defensively,” he said, with regard to the high expectations that were set for the 8-8 team.
The Cowboys are not likely to have Brooking back regardless of being a popular figure inside the locker room.
Bradie James another of the teams free agent inside linebackers and only one of two Cowboys defenders to ever eclipse 200 tackles in a season should remain with the Cowboys even if it is in a back-up roll at middle linebacker. James has staying power which serves two purposes in the current defensive scheme.
One, James can provide depth at the middle linebacker position and also continue to mentor a both budding Sean Lee and second year prospect Bruce Carter. James’ presence on the sideline and in running situations will serve as an extra assistant coach both on and off the field for a young linebacking core that the Cowboys seem content to line up in 2012.
Depth at linebacker is much like depth at the cornerback position, especially in the 3-4 based type defenses, being that a team can never have enough players at either position.
Bradie James has been with the team since 2003. Drafted out of LSU in the fourth round, James backed up Pro Bowl outside linebacker Dexter Coakley, while showing playmaking ability as a special team’s performer in 2003 and 2004.
Should familiar Cowboy fans? It should. That is exactly the roll that Victor Butler has entrenched himself in since arriving in Dallas as a, you guessed it, fourth round pick in the 2009 NFL draft.
At 6’2”, 249 lbs. Victor Butler is however more suited to play outside linebacker in the Dallas Cowboys 3-4 defense than middle linebacker as is Bradie James.
Butlerhas functioned in a back-up roll for two seasons now behind former first round pick Anthony Spencer. Spencer was shown a tendency to be a better run stopper than pass rusher over the past five seasons with the Cowboys.
Spencer has shown durability at his current starting position over the last five seasons but has yet to emerge as the pass rushing threat opposite DeMarcus Ware that Dallas was hoping for when drafting Spencer 26th overall in the 2007 NFL draft.
With the Cowboys needing to continue the trend of trimming fat from the roster which began last year with many over priced veterans being cut from the team. Getting the teams overall salary down is essential in creating championship teams.
Championship teams are known to utilize under paid young talent to contribute in big ways on the field so that money can be spent elsewhere on the team, as in the case ofDallas’ offensive guard position.
Dollars saved on not resigning Anthony Spencer could easily lend to dollars spent on first team All-Pro left guard Carl Nicks of the Saints who many speculate will be leaving theNew Orleansafter four seasons.
Regardless of where the Cowboys decided to spend money saved from not being jammed up by resigning Anthony Spencer, it is becoming agreed upon as fans that a major overhaul is needed on the defensive side of the ball.
More team speed, discipline, nastiness, and ferocity are needed on the defensive side of the ball. Fans want to see more of an all out combined effort to limit mistakes and maximize effectiveness.
Fans are waiting on other players to stand up and make plays on defense other than DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee. Time for others to tote the load or find some that will and Victor Butler could be one of those players.