Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC East [Print without images]

Monday, February 10, 2014
10 offseason questions: Marinelli's fixes

By Calvin Watkins

The Cowboys have major decisions to handle regarding their franchise this offseason. Todd Archer and Calvin Watkins along with some guests answer some of biggest issues for the Cowboys this week.

2. Can Rod Marinelli fix the defense?

Todd Archer: I’ll give you a short answer on this one: no. Now, I’m not saying the defense won’t be better in 2014. I just don’t know how it will be fixed. There won’t be much visible difference between what he will do and what Monte Kiffin did. Honestly, the Cowboys need their better players to play a lot better and they need, well, better players. That’s what makes this scheme. Marinelli had a good run in Chicago because he had Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers and Henry Melton. With the Cowboys he needs Sean Lee to stay healthy, Bruce Carter to figure it out, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne to figure out, DeMarcus Ware to return to form and hope they can find a three-technique to replace Jason Hatcher, whom I can’t see returning as a free agent because of the price tag. That’s a whole lot of ‘ifs.’ This scheme is not about tricking people. It’s about rallying to the ball, creating turnovers and playing fast. Marinelli can motivate and get the guys believing, but if the talent is not upgraded, the ‘fix’ will not be a complete turnaround.

Dan Graziano: Can he keep it healthy? I think Marinelli showed this year that he can get production out of defensive linemen who may not be highly regarded. And I think he's smart enough and a good enough coach that he can make the Cowboys' defense better. But until they stop losing key pieces (Sean Lee, hello!) for large chunks of the season, they can keep changing coordinators every offseason and it's not going to make a difference. I think if they add some depth up front and keep guys at least relatively healthy, Marinelli can make them a top-10 defense in 2014. But this is a couple of years in a row now where the whole thing fell apart over poor health, and I'm not sure what he or anyone else can do about that.

Calvin Watkins: No. The Cowboys need a overhaul of their defense and it's not about what Rod Marinelli can or cannot do. The problem with this teams' defense is the personnel. The front four will miss Jason Hatcher (free agency) and there is some concern about the return of DeMarcus Ware at defensive end and whether or not George Selvie (end) and Nick Hayden (defensive tackle) can become productive members in 2014. The secondary has major issues outside of leading tackler Barry Church and cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Linebacker Sean Lee can't finish a season without getting hurt and Bruce Carter and Justin Durant, the other starters at linebacker were inconsistent last season. Durant's health also affected him, too. Marinelli can't solve these problems. The Cowboys need to improve the depth of age of the defensive unit. It needs to get younger and find better players in the draft and free agency. If the Cowboys can't do that, it doesn't matter who the defensive coordinator is.