Commentary

Cowboys' D lacks intimidation factor

No one in Dallas has enough of an edge or physical presence to scare opponents

Originally Published: September 20, 2012
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Instead of whining about whether Golden Tate's demolition of Sean Lee was an illegal hit, Dallas Cowboys fans should be trying to remember the last time one of their receivers delivered such a mighty blow.

[+] EnlargeDemarcus Ware
Joe Nicholson/US PresswireCowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware is a future Hall of Famer but doesn't put fear in his opponents.

Or the last time they saw a running back knock another dude's jock off, which is what running back Robert Turbin did to DeMarcus Ware. And what about right tackle Breno Giacomini's demeanor.

On one play, he sprinted 15 yards and hurled himself toward Ware, delivering one final block on Marshawn Lynch's 16-yard run to start the third quarter. On another, he slung 293-pound Kenyon Coleman to the ground away from the action.

And that was just on offense.

The Seahawks set a physical tone from the opening kickoff and never relented.

The reality is the Cowboys haven't had a consistently intimidating force on defense since Roy Williams was released after the 2008 season and they haven't had an edgy player who occasionally crossed the line since special-teams stud Keith Davis' last season that same year.

On the Internet, we can all find multiple videos on YouTube devoted to Williams' prowess as a feared hitter. And you can still find some videos of Darren Woodson's head-rattling hit on Seattle's Darrell Jackson that cost him $75,000.

This current group of Cowboys? Good luck finding one to bust a grape on a regular basis.

Oh, they do it every now and then, such as Anthony Spencer's hit on Sidney Rice in the third quarter that broke up an apparent completion.

Understand, Ware is a future Hall of Famer and Sean Lee is an emerging star, but no one on this defense has an intimidating persona aside from nose tackle Jay Ratliff, and he's hurt right now.

There's no player who plays with enough of an edge or is such a physical presence that players on opposing teams have sleepless nights. A player might fear giving up a sack to Ware, but he doesn't fear the perennial All-Pro linebacker ripping his head off.

It's a subtle difference.

Football is the ultimate machismo sport. Cowards can't even make it to this level because the game is too difficult.

But it's clear some teams -- the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers come to mind -- are more physical than others. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are on the Cowboys' schedule. So are another game with the Giants and two against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Cowboys must figure out how to handle the physicality in those games, or they will get destroyed again on the scoreboard.

"That goes to the identity that starts with the people you pick and choose to have on your team," said coach Jason Garrett, describing his team's physicality in training camp. "You're not always going to be right in your evaluations, but you want to make it a priority when you're evaluating somebody.

"You want to be a physical football team, then you need to sign and draft physical players. Then try to create situations in practice to continue to foster that physical mentality."

FYI: Don't overlook the Bucs and Greg Schiano, their new renegade coach who's demanding his team play every play as hard as it can. That's why he had his defense fire off the ball when New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was in victory formation Sunday, sending coach Tom Coughlin into a postgame rage.

The Bucs will watch the video of last week's game, and they will bring it. Any weakness, real or perceived, in the NFL is attacked until it's shored up.

If the perception is the Cowboys are a finesse team whose defense gets pushed around and whose receivers can't beat press coverage, then that's what they're going to see every week until they beat it.

"I think you know it when you see it," Garrett said. "I think it shows up and I think it's very identifiable when you see it and I think it's very identifiable when you don't as well. We want a team that likes to hit, attack and compete."

Soft players and teams can't survive in this league. We're about to find out whether the Cowboys will hit back or just take it.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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