Defensive thoughts from the Alamodome

August, 10, 2011
8/10/11
2:32
PM ET
Training camp hasn't ended with the Cowboys leaving the Alamodome on Wednesday, but here are seven defensive observations from the 14 days spent in San Antonio:

** Rob Ryan did not disappoint. The new defensive coordinator caused a mini-storm with his “most-hyped team” stuff and kept quiet for a little bit, but he delivered. The defense has a new attitude thanks to Ryan’s bravado. He is unafraid to speak his mind, which might cause some anxious moments for Jason Garrett, but the players will play for him. Will they play better? This year will be a referendum on the talent on defense.

** Best defensive player of camp? It’s a tie between DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff. Ware might get the advantage because he was out there every day with Ratliff missing a few days with a hip injury. During the year, however, you will be saying, ‘Look at where Ratliff is lined up on this play,’ a ton.

** Sean Lee appears ready to have a breakout season. His style will not flash in a camp setting. He needs a game to show everything he can do. Last year in camp, he got turned around a bunch and could not disengage from blockers. This summer he looks like a different guy.

** One undrafted rookie that looks like he has had a good camp but has not been mentioned yet: cornerback Mario Butler. At one point he was the nickel corner over draft pick Josh Thomas before the veterans were able to practice. He's not the fastest but he has a chance.

** Could three undrafted defensive players make the 53? Linebackers Alex Albright and Orie Lemon have stood out as well as Butler.

** If Abram Elam did not sign a one-year deal for $2.5 million, I would’ve put my money on Barry Church to win one of the safety spots. Church seems to find the ball a lot.

** The injuries to Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins are not a good thing. They need practice time. Jenkins will be back sooner, but it makes sense to rest him so he doesn’t inflame that nerve and have it bother him for the year. Jenkins was off to a good start in camp and he had at least three hits that stood out.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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