- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- In a chat with reporters this week, Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan spoke about losing confidence.
He didn't lose confidence in his abilities to teach his defense or call a game, but something else.
Ryan said the defense, specifically the secondary, lost it's confidence as the season progressed.
"I think especially in the secondary we lost some confidence," Ryan said. "We weren’t challenging receivers like we need to do and obviously it showed and it hurt us. It wasn't all scheme related. The parts where I take the blame for, when there’s confusion on the defense a lot of that, was us not getting on the same page, even in training camp. Those little details come back and hurt you when you’re playing against the Super Bowl champs, that hurt and the fact we lost a little bit of confidence on the back end we weren’t challenging receivers."
One of the biggest mysteries to the 2011 season was the disappearance of cornerback Terence Newman. He played badly down the stretch, after a strong start to the season.
Overall, the Cowboys pass defense declined statically.
After an overtime loss at Arizona, the Cowboys pass defense ranked 14th. When the season ended, the Cowboys finished 23rd in pass defense. For a six week stretch, the Cowboys, as a total defense, ranked in the Top 10, but finished the season 14th overall.
Ryan believes the lack of an offseason program hurt the teaching portion of a new defense. He's not saying it's an excuse, because every NFL team was in the same situation in terms of not having an offseason program to tweak old defensive and offense schemes or introduce new ones.
Ryan stressed this offseason he's going back to basics with his teaching of the defense.
"I know I tried to do to much," Ryan said alluding to last season. "I think coming into a new place, like the Dallas Cowboys, you want to be the best right off the bat and you want to be multiple. It's what I like to do. Hell, I think I’m smarter (than everybody) and I know I am but unfortunately I probably put a little too much in too early and guys we started off pretty fast on defense. I know the preseason we looked like the worst defense that ever played and (the media) documented that well. So in comparisons to all the other defenses, it was a joke. I was happy to see us come back out of it and at the end of the year I think we lost some confidence."