Cowboys' defense focused on 'small things'

June, 13, 2013
6/13/13
9:57
AM ET
There's a lot of change on the defensive side of the ball this year for the Dallas Cowboys. But to hear Anthony Spencer tell it, things are less complex under new coordinator Monte Kiffin than they were under his scheme-driven predecessor Rob Ryan. Per the Dallas Morning News:
On the field, Ryan’s 3-4 scheme is much more complex. Kiffin’s 4-3 base has less terminology and trickery, allowing a player like Spencer to focus more on rushing the passer and less on dropping into coverage.

“I think Rob had a lot more schemes for doing things,” Spencer explained, “and with [defensive line coach] Rod Marinelli and Kiffin, they’re more, ‘We’re going to beat them by doing the small things better than they do the small things. We’re really not going to try to scheme too much, we’re going to do the little things and try to beat them that way.’”

That's probably fine, since the success of this defensive transition rests to a large part on the ability of Spencer and DeMarcus Ware to rush the passer from a 4-3 defensive end position as opposed to the 3-4 outside linebacker positions they used to play. The physical demands of lining up closer to the offensive line could take a toll on either or both, and it's up to Kiffin and Marinelli to find ways to alleviate that, perhaps with slants and creative alignments along the front. But assuming Spencer and Ware can handle the smaller space in which they'll be asked to work this year, it's probably for the best that the new coaches are keeping things simple and focusing on the end game -- i.e., getting to the quarterback -- as opposed to throwing a ton of technical details at these guys to go along with the position changes.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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