Dallas Cowboys, Laying The Foundation For Defense


Jan 4, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (90) recovers a fumble after sacking Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) late in the fourth quarter in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium. Dallas defeated Detroit 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Back in the late 1960’s and through the 1970’s, the Dallas Cowboys had the “Doomsday” Defense. The “Doomsday Defense” appeared in five Super Bowls and won two of them in the 1970’s. That first group of defenders included Hall of Famers Bob “Mr. Cowboy” Lilly, Mel Renfro, Herb Adderly, and Dallas Cowboys’ Ring Of Honor players like Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan, and Cliff Harris. There were other popular players like Jethro Pugh, D.D. Lewis, Charlie Waters, and Willie Townes.

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Those defenses’ dominated back in the day. Dominated in such a way that Howley was the first defensive player to be named MVP of a Super Bowl (V), on a losing team I might add. The “Doomsday Defense” would pass the torch to a different generation of players.  “Doomsday II” would win Super Bowl XII with Hall of Famer Randy White, Harvey Martin, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Mike Hegman, Bob Breunig, and the ultra personality Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson. Like its predecessor, it dominated, too. Like Howley in SB V, Martin and White became the first defensive teammates (and only) to be Co-MVP’s of a SB.

“Doomsday II” would last well into the 1980’s when the players became old and the Cowboys became mediocre. There would be another “DoomsdayIII”, only to a lesser extent in terms of popularity. But that defense became the first team ever to win 3 Super Bowls in a four year span.  And that was the last time the Cowboys had a “Doomsday” defense. Heck, that’s the last time the Cowboys had a real DEFENSE!

Those defenses had one thing in common and that was winning Super Bowls. But the main thing they had in common were talented players. Ultra talented players that is. On the defensive side of the ball the Cowboys had HOF players. From Lilly to White to Charles Haley, those players were the difference makers in winning all of those SB’s.

Now in 2015, the Cowboys are laying the foundation for a great defense. This defense won’t come to fruition like the others right away, but the building blocks are there, like a brick mason building a house. It started with the draft of 2014 when the Cowboys drafted seven defensive players, with Demarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens leading the way as the most productive rookies from that class so far. In this year’s draft, the Cowboys drafted five defensive players.

The prize rookies out of the 2015 class are CB Byron Jones and DE Randy Gregory. Although Gregory was picked in the second round, he was a top 10 pick before he fell out of the first round because of a failed drug test. The Cowboys got a steal with Gregory. Jones is considered one of the most athletic and versatile defensive backs that came out of the draft. He can play either CB or S.

Two positions the Cowboys really need help with.

So the Cowboys have drafted 12 defensive players in the last two years. Drafting so many defensive players was done out of necessity because the defense had been so pathetic. In 2013, the Cowboys had the worse defense in franchise history and the worse in the league. And to prove my point, the Cowboys have added several linebackers to the defense, signing LB’s Keith Rivers, Jasper Brinkley, and Andrew Gachkar. After re-signing Rolando McClain.

The Cowboys also signed undrafted rookie LB Donnie Baggs and LB Kyle Knox. Including the LB’s that were drafted, the Cowboys have 12 LB’s on the roster

Although some of these players won’t make the team or will be back ups and special team players, the blueprint for a great defense is developing. With Sean Lee coming off of injury and McClain re-signed, the Cowboys will have two play makers playing roaming the middle of the field. Add in Hitchens, and the Cowboys will be dynamic at the linebacker position. Not to mention the Cowboys are expecting big things from rookie Damien Wilson.

The Cowboys addressed the pass rush with the FA signing of Greg Hardy. There are less heralded players like defensive linemen Jeremy Mincey, Tyrone Crawford, Jack Crawford and 2014 draftee Ben Gardner who will make the defense better and gives it depth. With Hardy, Lawrence and Gregory, the defensive cornerstones are being laid down for the future. That’s happening whether Hardy stays after next season or not.

By no means am I expecting this defense to be as good or as dominant as the “Doomsday Defense”. Only time will tell. Because those defenses were legendary, stacked with Hall of Famers. But I do expect this defense to be better than last year’s defense, especially the pass rush. I expect it to go far.

Like to the Super Bowl.

And with talented players like Lee, McClain, Hitchens, Jones, Gregory, Lawrence, and Hardy, the defense can only get better.

It will succeed.

Because the Cowboys are building this defense one talented brick at a time.