Indications are Rob Ryan will return

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
11:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys appear to be a franchise with stability, given the firing of seven head coaches on Black Monday in the NFL.

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Coach Jason Garrett didn't want to talk about potential staff changes, but when pressed about defensive coordinator Rob Ryan he didn't sound like a man willing to hand out pink slips.

"We’re not going to get into staff conversations right now," Garrett said Monday. "I have a lot of confidence in Rob Ryan. There’s no question about that."

Ryan's defense missed five starters and two backups. His best defensive player, outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, played basically with one arm in the last two games. His starting safety, Gerald Sensabaugh, played with a bad hip.

Few players are healthy late in the season, but not having at least seven main players will hurt a defense.

The Cowboys defense finished the 2012 season 19th overall, 22nd against the run and 19th against the pass.

Turnovers, an area of discussion this season at Valley Ranch, were rare. The Cowboys snagged seven interceptions, tied for the lowest in the league with Kansas City. The Cowboys also recovered nine fumbles.

Yet Ryan mixed and matched his personnel because of injuries. He moved cornerback Brandon Carr to safety in some packages. He had Mike Jenkins playing more slot corner, a spot he never worked at before. At one point in Sunday's regular-season finale against Washington, Ryan moved Brady Poppinga to outside linebacker.

Defensive end Sean Lissemore moved to nose tackle with starter Jay Ratliff (sports hernia surgery) and backup Josh Brent (suspended list) out for the season.

The secondary had numerous new faces, ranging from Eric Frampton, Michael Coe, Charlie Peprah and Sterling Moore. These players weren't with the team in training camp.

In the last two months of the season, the Cowboys signed eight defensive players to the active roster.

"I thought Rob did a really good job," Garrett said. "I stood up here a number of times and said you don’t want to talk about injuries and we’re not talking about them now but in answering your question I’m going to say that it was a real challenge for (Ryan). If you think about the number of guys we lost on defense, starting, marquee players who are just simply out, and the other guys who are battling through injuries and the challenges he had bringing guys from the practice squad up, from off the street and on our team and literally playing them two days later.

"That happened a number of different times and I thought he did a really good job managing that situation. I thought our defensive staff did a good job managing that situation, getting these guys ready to play in a shorter period of time against some competitive opponents. I thought they handled that situation well. We became more decimated as the year went on. We had to make adjustments in our schemes to try to fit to what these guys are capable of doing and it was challenging. There’s no question about it, but he never blinked. He understood what we had and tried his best to put the best guys out there that he could."
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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