Cowboys defense can't be fixed, can be better


IRVING, Texas -- The best part of the bye week for the Dallas Cowboys defense was simply the rest.

The weekend off should help DeMarcus Ware's quadriceps strain, Jason Hatcher's stinger, Morris Claiborne's hamstring and J.J. Wilcox's knee injury, as well as the other assorted aches and pains the Cowboys have on defense. The week off means one fewer game Sean Lee and Justin Durant will miss with hamstring injuries.

Getting closer to full strength will help a defense that will need as much help as possible.

There are no miracle fixes for this defense.

They will not turn into Doomsday this season. They are close to being on pace to allow the most yards in a season in NFL history. They have allowed four 400-yard passer and were saved by the New Orleans Saints' playcalling with Drew Brees at 392 yards. They have allowed more than 200 yards rushing in two games this season. Twice they have allowed more than 600 yards in a game. Two other times they have given up more than 500 yards.

They can’t stop the pass and they have difficulty stopping the run. Other than that, Monte Kiffin's first year as the Cowboys defensive coordinator has gone swimmingly.

Kiffin does not have to figure out a way to stop opposing offenses. He needs to figure out a way to simply slow them down. The Cowboys have been able to take the ball away just fine. They need more of that. They also need some better red-zone defense.

What else do they need?

Bruce Carter needs to play the way he did last year when Lee was lost for the season with a toe injury. He had six of his nine tackles for loss in Lee’s absence. He had 42 tackles in the five games he played without Lee before he suffered a season-ending elbow injury. The weak-side linebacker spot in the 4-3 should be tailor-made for his skill set but it just has not happened. Yet.

They need to play more man-to-man coverage. Jerry Jones suggested it on his radio show last week and the owner and general manager has a point. They need to force the opposing quarterbacks to make throws, not just tear them up in zone coverage. With Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and a healthier Claiborne, they can match up a little bit better. Tighter coverage helps the pass rush.

They need Ware to be Ware. He had a sack in his return against the Saints but in doing so he aggravated his quadriceps injury. Ware has to be the best defender on the field, and he has to stay on the field. He changes how offenses block. His presence will make things easier for Hatcher and George Selvie.