Dallas Cowboys: Rod Marinelli Can Only Do So Much

Dec 21, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli yells from the sidelines against the Indianapolis Colts at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Colts 42-7. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli yells from the sidelines against the Indianapolis Colts at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Colts 42-7. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

 With defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford nursing a sore back, the Dallas Cowboys continue to lose key defensive players, expecting Rod Marinelli to fix it.

In 2013, the Dallas Cowboys defense was the worst in the NFL and set franchise lows in all statistical categories. The all-time low for the defense that season was the debacle of a game against the New Orleans Saints where Drew Brees converted 40 first downs.

It was, by far, one of the most embarrassing defensive performances by a Cowboys defense in franchise history.

The following season the Cowboys were predicted to finish dead last in the NFC East because of a putrid defense and lack of pass rushers. The Cowboys proved all the experts wrong as the defense improved tremendously en route to a 12-4 record and a divisional playoff victory.

Although the Cowboys lost a close game to the Green Bay Packers, the fact that Dallas had a successful season was in part because of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. The defensive guru took average players and got the best out of them, making them play above their potential with relentless pressure on the quarterback, and forcing turnovers.

Marinelli performed his magic with defensive lineman like Jeremy Mincey (6.0 sacks), Henry Melton (5.0 sacks), Tyrone Crawford (3.0 sacks), George Selvie (3.0), and Jack Crawford (2.0).

There were others in the rotation that contributed like Anthony Spencer, Nick Hayden, Terrell McClain, and then rookie DeMarcus Lawrence.

The Cowboys defense recorded 27 sacks, 18 interceptions, and registered 20 forced fumbles. Mincey led the defense with six sacks.

More from Sports Dallas Fort-Worth

How did Marinelli get that group of players to perform to their maximum potential?

Besides Melton and Spencer (former pro bowlers who were on the downside of their careers), the Cowboys defense featured a bunch of no-name players.

Marinelli deserved recognition as defensive coordinator of the year, if there were such an award.

Marninelli’s ability to get the best production out of players (average and talented) speaks more about his coaching ability than his 4-3 defense.

Already without the services of pass rushers Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and other linemen on the mend, where will the sacks come from?

There is only so much Marinelli do. At some point, you have to have the talent to win the game.

It’s that simple.

Coaching can only go so far, regardless if its legendary head coach Tom Landry or Marinell. The moment will come when the Cowboys defense needs Lawrence and Gregory  harassing and sacking the quarterback.

Of course, I expect Marinelli to get the maximum production out of defensive linemen Ryan Russell, Cedric Thornton, Charles Tapper, McClain, and other hopefuls like Mike McAdoo and Lawrence Okoye.

Hopefully, this trend will continue when defensive tackle Maliek Collins and edge rusher Benson Mayowa return from their injuries.

Marinelli runs a 4-3 scheme where he rotates the defensive linemen for freshness but needs them to pressure the quarterback from any position. This scheme relies on the front four to create pressure and allow the linebackers and secondary to force turnovers.

Therefore, you can understand why Marinelli can only do so much without top-tier talent in the rotation. Getting the best out of this group will build confidence, gain valuable experience  and produce results, especially when Lawrence and Collins come back.

We have seen the results when the opposing team’s offensive line meets an overachieving defensive line. The best example is the 2014 divisional playoff game against the Packers when quarterback Aaron Rodgers beat the Cowboys on one bad leg, literally one leg.

Rodgers hobbled around in the  pocket and completed pass after pass. The image stung so much to the Cowboys because if their was a legit pass rusher, Dallas would have sacked Rodgers numerous times and dominated the line of scrimmage.

The painful loss led General Manager Jerry Jones to spend a second round pick on defensive end Gregory to solidify and fix the pass rush once and for all.

With no bona fide pass rush, Marinelli will be forced to blitz and leave his secondary open to man coverage, and the secondary is mediocre at best, except for corner Orlando Scandrick and free safety Byron Jones.

However, that’s not enough when Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr are on the field.

Claiborne played solid last season. Carr continues to make highlight reels for what defensive backs are not supposed to do.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr became famous off of Carr with his acrobatic, best ever, one-handed catch.

The linebacking corps is in good shape with Sean Lee, Justin Durant, and Anthony Hitchens in the fold. Rolando McClain would make the defense better if he were available, but the nonchalant, don’t care linebacker is serving a 10-game suspension for for an opiate known as the “purple drank”.

The main issue is for this defense is the pass rush. Where will the sacks come from?

The offense can stay on the field all day long and control the clock, but the defense has to take the field at some point and make something happen, starting with the front line.

Next: Cowboys: This Man's Swagger Upgrades the Secondary

Marinelli’s talent is that he fits his scheme around his players.

As the Cowboys continue to lose players, there is only so much Marinelli can do!