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Does Rob Ryan trust his defense?

12/8/2012

IRVING, Texas -- Friday afternoon we heard Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan talk about how bad his defense has played of late.

It's still a talented defense, despite the loss of numerous players.

But when you have outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer left as your top pass-rushers and three talented cornerbacks, including first-round picks Morris Claiborne and Mike Jenkins and $50.1 million free agent acquisition Brandon Carr, the Cowboys defense should be playing better.

You have to wonder if Ryan trusts his defense.

He's blitzing just four, and sometimes five, defenders on a consistent basis.

"You want to be smart about it and you want to be in these games at the end," Ryan said.

Ware said the Cowboys should still get to the quarterback, despite rushing only four players. However, the Cowboys' pass rush is going up against six blockers, and that makes it hard to reach the quarterback.

Ryan is without standout inside linebackers Bruce Carter and Sean Lee, so he drops Ware or Spencer back in coverage at times to help the replacements, Ernie Sims and Dan Connor.

Ryan doesn't have slot corner Orlando Scandrick, who was placed on IR with a broken hand, so he's using Jenkins and at times Vince Agnew to play in the slot.

Sterling Moore was signed last week to help the short-handed secondary.

Ryan isn't pressuring as much because he wants to eliminate the big plays, so he keeps more defenders back in coverage and mixes zone and man coverages, which explains why the Cowboys wanted Moore to play so quickly after signing him the Friday before the Philadelphia Eagles.

"The pass rush hasn't looked like it should," Ryan said. "We need to get after the quarterback."

Ryan did say his defense is still a man-to-man defense, a "down in your face" type of style, as he called it. But he's still mixing the zone coverages.

Ryan is boastful when it comes to his defense, but the way he's playing is conservative. The Cowboys have allowed 860 yards of offense the last two weeks and seven pass plays of 20 or more yards.

If the Cowboys want to reach their goals, those numbers have to get lower. Ryan wants to avoid the big play, but it hasn't worked.

Is it a trust issue? Or is it something else?