Whose fault?

Who's more at fault for the Cowboys' .500 record?

  •  
    16%
  •  
    84%

(Total votes: 4,210)

OFFENSE
DEFENSE

Jerry built Cowboys around offense

Taylor By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

Jerry Jones has never, ever told DeMarcus Ware he wanted to make the Dallas Cowboys' defense "Ware Friendly."

From the time Tony Romo established himself as one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, Jerry has done everything possible to make the Cowboys' offense "Romo Friendly."

And he's told us about it every step of the way.

The Cowboys have spent first-round picks three of the past four seasons on offensive players such as receiver Dez Bryant, tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick.

Last April, the Cowboys spent their first three picks on Frederick, tight end Gavin Escobar and receiver Terrance Williams, when they clearly had glaring needs elsewhere.

Why? Jerry wanted to build one of the best offenses in the league so that Romo, who signed a contract extension worth $108 million in the offseason, would have everything he needed to thrive.

When the Cowboys, who are on a bye, play the New York Giants in two weeks, their starting offense will have combined salary-cap values of about $33.3 million, which is nearly $10 million more than the starting defense.

So when you're trying to figure out why the Cowboys are 5-5, don't get caught up in the historically bad defense. Injuries have compromised it. Now, Sean Lee, the best defensive player, is out three to four weeks with a hamstring injury.

The offense has no excuses.

It has been relatively healthy but largely ineffective since its 49-point outburst against Denver. The reason: It has no identity.

Seriously, what do these Cowboys do well?

They don't throw it well unless they're in a formation with five receivers. We all know they either can't run or choose not to run.

And they can't even consistently get the ball to their two best playmakers, Bryant and Jason Witten.

In the good old days, Troy Aikman would throw the skinny post, the slant or the deep out to Michael Irvin if they really needed to make a play. Or they would run the lead draw to Emmitt Smith behind their big, physical offensive line.

These Cowboys passively take what the defense gives them. Rarely do they take what they want. They're just running plays and praying they find something that works.

The offense was supposed to carry the team this season. Instead, it has let it down.

The defense held Kansas City to 17 points, and the Cowboys lost. The defense forced four turnovers against Detroit, and the Cowboys lost.

Win those games, and the Cowboys would be in complete control of the NFC East.

This defense isn't getting any better this season. The Cowboys are 5-5, yet remain in control of their playoff destiny.

It all depends on how well the Cowboys' "Romo Friendly" offense performs.

D is bad and isn't getting better

Watkins By Calvin Watkins
ESPN.com
Archive

It's easy to point to the lack of touches for Dez Bryant and Jason Witten as the primary reasons why the Dallas Cowboys' offense struggles at times.

The reality is the defense is what's wrong with the Cowboys as a whole and why they stand at 5-5.

Rob Ryan was let go by Jerry Jones after last season because of the defense's failure to make plays at critical moments, even though Ryan's unit was decimated by injuries.

What is Jones going to do now?

The Cowboys' defense ranks last in total yards allowed per game and against the pass. It is 28th against the run.

An NFL-record four quarterbacks have thrown for more than 400 yards against coordinator Monte Kiffin's defense. It could have been five if New Orleans' Drew Brees had elected to throw one or two more passes in last week's victory. Brees finished with 392 passing yards.

The Cowboys allowed an NFL-record 40 first downs to the Saints and gave up a franchise-high 625 yards. (They gave up 623 yards to the Detroit Lions two weeks earlier.)

The longest completed pass in 2013 came when the Lions' Matthew Stafford completed an 87-yard catch-and-stiff-arm run to Calvin Johnson. Johnson's day -- 14 catches for 329 yards -- was the second-best performance in league history.

Can it get any worse?

Maybe.

Kiffin was hired to fix this defense, but all this unit has done is fail to get offenses off the field at the right time. Offenses don't respect the Cowboys' pass defense, and why should they?

Injuries in the secondary and a poor pass rush have contributed to the problem. Kiffin is smart enough to fix these issues, but if he doesn't have the personnel and the Cowboys don't have the cap space to find better personnel, then there isn't much he can do.

The return of Morris Claiborne, J.J. Wilcox and Jason Hatcher for Sunday's game against the Giants should alleviate some problems.

Will it be enough?

Doubtful.

It's safe to say the Cowboys need more than the players mentioned above for the defense to turn things around. And at some point, the Cowboys' offense will find its way and produce points.

The defense? I doubt it will see much improvement, and if and when that happens, Jones could be forced to make another coaching change.

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