2. Jayron Kearse, S
When Dan Quinn was signed to coach the defense in Dallas, their fans let out a sigh of relief. Mike Nolan had coached the unit the prior season and it was a mess. Before that, it was Rod Marinelli, who seemed to be universally loved even though his work as a coordinator left a lot to be desired. A whole lot.
Marinelli seemed to believe you didn't have to have a big run stuffer in the middle or good safeties. That led to several defensive tackles and defensive backs being plugged in while we all had to suffer through the atrocious yelling from the fan base as they cried: "Let Rod coach 'em up!"
Well, Rod typically coached them up to average. At best. Yet fans still loved Marinelli even though they gave up deep ball after deep ball and couldn't win at the line of scrimmage.
Eventually, that love started to fade and then when Quinn came in, they saw what had been missing. Dallas put some beef on the front lines and then added several safeties in free agency. The most impactful signing during his first season was Jayron Kearse, a safety who was a bit of an afterthought when signed.
A former seventh-round pick from Clemson, Kearse had just recorded 59 tackles in 11 games for Detroit. At 6-foot-4 and 215-pounds, Quinn used him as an enforcer in the secondary and he had 101 tackles, two picks, and a sack in his first season with the Cowboys.
In three years, he now has 250 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and four picks but could be on the way out — especially if Quinn leaves. This past season, Kearse played well but didn't have too many signature moments. Perhaps he could still have a role in Quinn's defense but another coordinator will likely want to get younger and faster at the position.