Dallas Cowboys: It Starts and Finishes with the Secondary

Martin LongCorrespondent IJuly 22, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 02:  Mike Jenkins #31 of the Dallas Cowboys runs an interception in for a touchdown against  the New York Giants during their game on November 2, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Secondary play is the key next year in Dallas, a key that for the most part has gone unnoticed as a lot of the media attention has been focused on Tony Romo and how all these "choke" performances are the reason the Cowboys have missed the playoffs the last three years. 

I’m not one to stand up in arms and defend Romo for these performances; I believe he is a great QB, but to give away three turnovers in that must-win game against Philadelphia, two of them fumbles. Now that is just not right.

Regardless of these turnovers, however, our defense, even though ranked eighth overall last season, never really played to its full potential.

Whether it was giving up stupid penalties like 12 men on the field on third and 3, pass interference penalties in the end zone, dropped fumble recoveries, giving up two 70+ yard runs in a single game or just getting flat out beaten.

The secondary is the last line of defense.

They have to stop the RB from getting those long runs.

They have to pick up those fumbles and hold on.

They have to play smart and make sure everyone is in place so the defense can run smoothly.

Last season, the secondary was not or did not do any of these things, and some of them they weren't even close to doing.

Last season, the offense put up 22.6 points a game, good for 18th in the league.

The defense, however, gave up 22.8 points a game, good for 20th in the league.

Small difference, but not small enough. The defense was meant to be better last season, and to some degree they were.

They gave up only 187.7 yards through the air every game and just 106.6 yards rushing. They also led the league in sacks with 58, seven more than the second team, the Steelers.

The problem was not any of the above; it was that the defense could not hold up for 60 minutes. 

Almost every single game, the defense would start off well with good pressure, good coverage, all-around good defense.

Toward the end of games, however, things would fall apart. Opposing teams would start passing more, and the secondary just couldn't handle it. They would end up giving up big plays that meant either the offense had to make long drives down the field to try and save the game or just a flat out loss.

This year, it has to be different.

This year, the defense needs to have every position set and ready to go. This year, the defense cannot get tired and give up a big play at the end of every close game.

In my opinion, the Cowboys defense has all the players it needs. It's just about putting the pieces together; if the Dallas secondary can do that and have every player ready and organized, then this team won’t give up big plays and will win big games. 

It isn't just Romo who needs to be clutch.

The defense needs to make sure it can step up and make those big plays that can carry Dallas deep into the playoffs.