Dallas Cowboys: Nnamdi Asomugha and 5 Possible Defensive Backfield Additions
After giving up just 19 touchdowns through the air in 2009-10, the Cowboys gave up 33 passing scores in 2010-11, and the defensive backfield was by far the most disappointing part of the defense as a whole.
Terence Newman got another year older, and it showed in his play. Mike Jenkins regressed, big time. And Orlando Scandrick basically disappeared. It didn't help that those were the only three cornerbacks that the 'Boys had on their opening day roster.
Starting safeties Gerald Sensabaugh and Alan Ball both struggled with injuries and with their play when they were on the field. Ball, in particular, was quite bad, and he made former Cowboys safety Roy L. Williams look like he was good in coverage.
As both are free agents this offseason, you could see an entirely new safety tandem patrolling the back end for the Cowboys in the 2011-12 season.
Ryan was brought in with a mandate to fix the league's seventh worst pass defense, and his attacking style will help, but he still needs the personnel in place to be able to implement his system. The Cowboys let up the second most points per game in the league last year, and that simply is not acceptable.
Signing any of the following five players would go a long way toward fixing the Cowboys' pass defense, and in turn, leading the team back to the playoffs this season.
1. Eric Weddle
In his four seasons out of Utah, Eric Weddle has just six interceptions. However, he also has 358 tackles from the safety position.
Weddle's nose for the football is a big reason that the San Diego Chargers were the top defensive unit in the league last season. Previous Cowboys safeties have had problems tackling, and Weddle would shore up that problem real quickly.
When Weddle was drafted in 2007, the Cowboys traded down from the 22nd pick to 36, and then back up again to the 26th pick, but they selected disappointing-so-far linebacker Anthony Spencer.
The Cowboys would be wise not to pass on Weddle again, as safety is unquestionably their biggest need this offseason.
2. Michael Huff
The first of two Oakland Raiders defensive backs in this slideshow, Michael Huff is a great fit for the Cowboys.
Huff was born and raised in Irving, Texas, played his college ball at nearby University of Texas at Austin, and played for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan early in his career at Oakland. He knows the system, knows the plays, and would feel right at home—literally—coming back to Dallas.
It helps that the Cowboys have a huge hole at his position, free safety, as well.
Huff was a second team All-Pro selection in 2010, and seems to be getting betting as his career goes on. He finished last season with three interceptions for the second straight year, and recorded career highs in nearly every other category.
3. Abram Elam
Abram Elam just had the best two seasons of his six-year career playing safety for Rob Ryan in Cleveland.
He started his career as a special teams contributor in Dallas, and to return as an impact defensive player would bring his career full circle.
He caused six turnovers for the Browns' surprisingly good defense last season, picking off two passes, forcing two fumbles and recovering two fumbles. He also had two sacks.
Elam is a versatile safety who can player either strong or free, and would allow the Cowboys to mix up their coverages. It's definitely a plus that he knows Ryan's system well, and has Ryan's trust.
4. Ike Taylor
In all likelihood, Ike Taylor will stay with the Steelers and finish his career in Pittsburgh. However, that doesn't mean he can't be on my list.
Taylor is an impact corner, having consistently been near the top performers at his position the last five seasons with the Steelers.
He's very good in coverage and a sure tackler, as well. He's a two-time Super Bowl Champion, and on a team that is desperate for some leadership and stability on the defensive side of the football, he would be a great fit.
Although he has never recorded more than three interceptions in a season, he's a very good cover corner, something the Cowboys sorely lacked last year.
5. Nnamdi Asomugha
It's a very close race between Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha for the title of "Best Cornerback in the League." Year in and year out, Asomugha brings his A-game.
He figures to finally move on from Oakland this offseason, and there will be no shortage of teams vying for his services.
Among his suitors are expected to be Cowboys division rivals the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, and signing him would keep him from shutting down Miles Austin and/or Dez Bryant twice a year.
Asomugha is the type of player who can come in and make a huge impact in his first year and really turn a defense around. He also played for Rob Ryan early in his career and is familiar with the system.