The Dallas Cowboys' switch to the 4-3 defense will be key to their success in the 2013 NFL season.
Last season, the Cowboys lost five of eight games by one possession or less. In those five games, the 'Boys gave up an average of 30.2 points. To put this into a small perspective, the Tennessee Titans gave up the most points per game at 29.4 during the regular season. But of the 10 Titans losses, they lost three of those games by one possession.
Putting the roller coaster ride that was the offense aside, the defense needed to be better in 2012's key losses. After the season, Jerry Jones fired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator and hired Monte Kiffin.
Now, enter the 4-3 defense.
Kiffin is an innovator of the 4-3 and the father of the "Tampa 2" that sprawls from this defensive scheme.
The 4-3 is sure to benefit many of the defensive players and will be key to the 2013 season. Here's the importance of this defense to the Cowboys.
Bruce Carter will shine.
Bruce Carter is a young playmaker that the Cowboys have high expectations for. In last year's 3-4 defensive scheme, Carter solely got by on his talents. In the 4-3, Carter will be the weak-side or backside linebacker and could pose major matchup nightmares.
Where these defensive coaches are going to take advantage of Carter is rushing him with either Ware and Spencer. There have been times where Carter has been a terrible matchup for a back to have to deal with because of his size and power but also he has shown some wiggle to avoid the blocks. In clear air, Carter has really been impressive because of his high closing rate on the quarterback. He is going to be a problem for offenses off the edge on several fronts.
Carter's speed in the 4-3 is best displayed, in the video above, against LSU while at North Carolina in 2011. You'll notice Carter playing both outside linebacker and middle linebacker. This season, he will transition back into the 4-3 and show off his speed like he did in college.
DeMarcus Ware will have his best season ever.
DeMarcus Ware played outside linebacker, a position the superstar struggled with at times in the 3-4. Now, in the 4-3, Ware will move to defensive end and will thrive. A specimen at 6'4", 258 pounds, Ware, who played 4-3 in college, will be able to focus solely on getting to the quarterback.
Some believe that Ware will have a better first step in the 4-3. Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli confirms this in a February blog post by special contributor Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News.
I think it’ll aid him a little bit, because your takeoff is better. Your keys are a little more consistent with what you’re doing. That’s my opinion. I see him, I mean he’s an elite rusher right now. I just think the more opportunity he has, doing the same things every day, every week, the repetition, which allows you to become even faster. The sky is the limit for him, I believe.
The formation will help Ware become the elite rusher that he should be. See the above diagram (with one edit), thanks to bloggingtheboys.com, on Ware's positioning. The positioning in the 4-3 and angle of attack will help Ware increase pressure and sack the quarterback. This will be huge for the Cowboys, who ranked 20th in sacks last year. The added pressure will help create turnovers which the Cowboys were ranked 31st in.
Monte Kiffin will need to prepare for new offenses, namely the Philadelphia Eagles.
The biggest key to the success of the Cowboys this season will be how Kiffin transitions back into the NFL. As a defensive and assistant head coach at USC, Kiffin and the Trojans gave up 51 points last year to the University of Oregon. That Ducks squad was coach by Chip Kelly, now the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kelly has been acquiring the necessary pieces to run his offense with the Eagles. See the video, to the side, of how Kelly's weapons destroyed Kiffin's defense. Over 700 total yards were given up in this 2012 game. The Cowboys will see Kelly at least two times this year, and Kiffin should refer back to this video on how to not play against the Kelly.
Robert Griffin and the Washington Redskins run a similar offense as well. Kiffin will need to use everything he learned in his recent college years to game-plan against these new NFL offenses.
If all is successful with the 4-3 in Dallas, a possible Super Bowl could be in sight. The defensive alignment that Kiffin calls the "Tampa 2" might get a name change to the "Texas 2" if all goes well. Regardless of any offensive issues, a successful 4-3 defense will keep the Cowboys in games this season and could help a potential playoff run.