The Cowboys still are trying to get their legs under them on defense. With no off-season, the defense still is learning Rob Ryan's system.
“I think our defense, like our football team, is a work in progress," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "The more difficult thing for our defense is the defensive system was not in place last year like our offense and kicking game systems have been in. They’ve had to learn more quickly; they’ve had to understand how to make adjustments and be resourceful more quickly than the other units have. ...I think they’ve responded very well, and I think it’s a tribute to our coaches. One of the things we talk all of the time about is being able to coach very clearly and very simply to get some information across so the players can understand it not only in the meeting room but take it to the practice field and take it to the game field. I think our coaches do a very good job in that, but I think our players have been very into it. I think they understand the urgency of the situation to learn more quickly. I think the leaders of the group over there have done a very good job conveying that to the rest of the group. We’re a long way off in all areas, but I think we’ve made some progress there, and hopefully it will show up on Saturday night and through the rest of the preseason.”
The Cowboys gave up the most yards and most points in team history last season, which prompted the hiring of Ryan. But in two preseason games, the Cowboys have looked a lot like they did last season. They have allowed 43 points and a 298.0 yards per game average. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 65.5 percent of their passes with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 99.0 passer rating. Dallas has have played without its starting cornerbacks -- Terence Newman (groin) and Mike Jenkins (stinger) -- who will miss the entire preseason.
Ryan isn't worried.
"Hell, yeah I do," Ryan said when asked if he feels good about his defense. "I feel great about it. I know we’re working hard, and we’re going to be great."
The Cowboys will have their starters play the first half and maybe into the second half on Saturday in Minnesota. The starters probably won't play the final preseason game, so this is the dress rehearsal for the Sept. 11 opener against the Jets.
"There’s no question, we’d like to see the guys play well," secondary coach Dave Campo said. "But there’s a lot of different definitions of playing well. If we see improvement in every aspect of how we’re attacking the ball, how we’re doing certain things, the final score is not necessarily the answer. But it’s important for us to show improvement each week."
-- Charean Williams