The 2012 offseason could go down in Dallas Cowboys’ history as a turning point for the organization. Most analysts and fans will point to how a dream scenario unfolded and CB Morris Claiborne, the unanimously top-rated defensive player in the draft, wound up going to the Cowboys at #6. Jerry Jones decision to hire Secondary Coach Jerome Henderson makes the free agent acquisition of CB Brandon Carr and the drafting of Claiborne even more profound.
For all the flack that some are laying at the doorstep of Owner/GM Jerry Jones for not drafting certain players, Cowboys fans should love the acquisitions he’s made with the coaching staff, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. The huge buzz at Valley Ranch last season was the signing of Rob Ryan as the Defensive Coordinator. As is customary when coordinators are hired, Rob slowly but surely replaced the old guard with “his guys”, and this year’s offseason is no different. Rob brought in Henderson who served the same role with the Cleveland Browns. During his tenure in Cleveland, Henderson had the task of developing CB Joe Haden and Safety T.J. Ward (both rookies), and they turned in pretty remarkable seasons.
AdvancedNFLStats.com utilizes a mathematical formula called Win Probability Added (WPA) to determine the most impactful players, by position, in the NFL. According to the site, “The model uses score, time, down, distance, and field position to estimate how likely each team will go on to win the game”. As a rookie in 2010, Haden was the 11th ranked CB in the entire league and Ward was the 20th rated safety. Conversely, CB Orlando Scandrick was Dallas’ top corner at #30, with Terrence Newman close behind at #34. Our top safety was Gerald Sensabaugh at #25 with Alan Ball as the 73rd rated safety out of 79.
As a former NFL safety with the Patriots, Bills, Eagles, and Jets, Henderson requires a high level of competitiveness, tenacity, and technique from his secondary.
"“I’d like to have a secondary here that just grinds on teams,” Henderson says. “You consistently play with good technique, good discipline, effort, intensity, with good intelligence. And teams are going to make plays on you through the course of the game because they’re highly paid and they’re highly skilled as well, but over the course of the game, your discipline, your focus, your technique, your study hopefully will allow you to make more plays. I hope that I have a team of DBs that will play that way – they just fight every play, tooth and nail.”"
To get a feel for Henderson’s coaching style and philosophy, check out this video from the Browns website where he talks about how he prepares his secondary for game-like situations.
Although Claiborne is the clear choice for being a huge benefactor from Henderson’s philosophy and coaching mentality, the rest of the oft-maligned and recently picked-on Cowboys secondary can use a change of pace from former secondary coach Dave Campo. The fans’ expectations are for more physical, in your face corners, teamed with ball hawking safeties, and this is what Henderson wants to bring to Valley Ranch. It is assumed that incoming rookies with immense talent will be “coached up” properly so their growth and potential aren’t stunted. Clearly, Jerry Jones has made it possible for an environment to exist that can bring out the best in Claiborne, Carr, Jenkins, Scandrick, Sensabaugh, and the rest of the secondary. Fans should be excited and looking forward to what Rob Ryan and his staff, especially Jerome Henderson, are able to do between now and the start of the regular season.