Rob Ryan's adjustments paying off for defense

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
8:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Rob Ryan knew changes were needed for his defense after the 2011 season.

Four losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants last year convinced the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator and everyone around him that the defense wasn't good enough.

Flash forward to the the 2012 regular season opener. The Cowboys held the Giants to 269 yards of total offense and sacked quarterback Eli Manning three times. In the two losses to the Giants in 2011, the Cowboys gave up 947 yards.

"One of the most important aspects of coaching is to be able to make those kinds of adjustments relative to is it too much," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "How did we execute in his system? How we can adjust for better execution? All of those areas he's made adjustments. You can say he's had more time, but I think that would have come no matter what. ... You might have had better execution if he had the full offseason the year before."

Ryan decided he would keep his players in the base 3-4 scheme more often and make adjustments out of that formation. He didn't care if the Giants were going to challenge his secondary because he had confidence in his revamped unit. There were fewer tricked-up alignments and schemes weren't altered as often. The Cowboys used a 4-3 alignment just once against the Giants.

The changes started taking hold in the offseason. Even though several players knew the scheme, Ryan decided to teach it again at a slower pace this offseason, adding an increased comfort level for players in Year 2 of his system.

"Everything is pretty much predicated on our base stuff. We can pretty much call anything out of our base stuff," Ryan said. "That's probably the biggest thing, everything just flows together. It may have done it last year, but its clearer this year. The defense is more understandable for everybody this year."

Read the rest here.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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