The Rob Ryan Effect


The 49ers may have hired Jim Harbaugh. The Broncos may have gotten John Fox. And Mike Munchak might be the new coach in Tennessee, but the best hire of the NFL’s young offseason is Rob Ryan to be defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys.

Ryan brings exceptional energy and toughness to a defensive unit that was anything but tough in 2010.

Ryan will change the defense to a 3-4 scheme. Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware will be the key outside linebackers that must be so versatile in a 3-4 scheme.

Rob Ryan told the San Francisco Chronicle, “If you’re going to play a 3-4 and don’t have outside linebackers, you don’t have a defense. It starts with them.”

Anthony Spencer will need to step up to couple effectively with DeMarcus Ware. The move to a 3-4 has some analysts predicting that the Cowboys might select Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller in the first round of the NFL Draft. Miller is an effective pass rusher and would complement Ware well.

Linebackers are not the only thing that Ryan needs to fix however. Ryan must fix a secondary that was porous in 2010. Porous may be a generous description of the group that allowed an NFL-worst 33 passing touchdowns in 2010.

Mike Jenkins and Terrence Newman both have large contracts and they produced very little.

Newman is beginning to age and since he still has three years remaining on his contract, the Cowboys would likely have to release him if they do not want him back in 2011.

There have been rumors that the Cowboys may be a dark-horse to sign former Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha who Ryan coached in Oakland. However, the Cowboys already have the NFL’s highest payroll and will likely be limited in the money they can spend this offseason.

What makes Ryan so special is his ability to give energy and a toughness to a defense. A unit often takes on the personality of its coach, and if the cliche holds true for the Cowboys defense in 2011, the Cowboys defense will be twice what it used to be.

Ryan likes to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and play an aggressive style of defense. Often a good pass rush is a good way to hide deficiencies in the secondary.

The Cowboys secondary gave up 243.3 passing yards per game in 2010.

Ryan could also opt to improve his secondary via the draft. As SportDFW previously reported, Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara, and LSU CB Patrick Peterson will be options that the Cowboys will explore to improve their secondary.

With an impending labor dispute, the draft may be the more reliable way to upgrade the secondary since no one is sure when the free agent market will open up this offseason.

Other free agents in the secondary include Champ Bailey, Antonio Cromartie, and Ike Taylor. Dawan Landry and Quentin Mikell are the top safeties available to be signed.

Ryan is known to be a coach not afraid to accumulate depth. So whether the Cowboys draft a linebacker or cornerback in the draft, expect Ryan to be ready to sign players as well who can serve as productive backups.

For example, Ryan drafted former Florida cornerback Joe Haden in 2010 while with the Browns. He had formidable corner Eric Wright on the other side, but with Haden the Browns were able to finish 8th in the NFL in interceptions in 2010.

Toughness, energy, and an overall new direction is what the Cowboys defense needed, and that is what Rob Ryan brings.

With Jason Garrett running the offense and Ryan controlling the defense, the Cowboys should be one of the better coached teams in 2011 as long as Jason Garrett shows he can handle the head coaching duties.

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