Did defensive slips hurt Rob Ryan's prospects?

January, 29, 2013
1/29/13
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Ryan won't get the St. Louis Rams defensive coordinators job, as coach Jeff Fisher said Ryan's scheme just wouldn't be a good fit.

Maybe Fisher -- and a few other personnel people -- have come to the conclusion that Ryan's defense isn't good enough. From a statistical standpoint, the Cowboys regressed under Ryan.

In 2011, Ryan's first season, the Cowboys had 15 interceptions. That slipped to seven in 2012, tied for fewest in the NFL with Kansas City. Coach Jason Garrett told reporters at the Senior Bowl that a lack of turnovers were an issue for him, and it's assumed the head coach feels he's got the players capable of creating them.

The Cowboys' overall defense finished 14th in 2011 and fell to 19th in 2012. The run defense took a massive dive in 2012. The Cowboys finished 22nd against the run after they ranked seventh in 2011.

You could attribute this to the play of nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who finished third on the team with 18 quarterback pressures and tied for third with six tackles for loss. Ratliff played in only six games in 2012.

The pass defense, we thought, was upgraded by the signing of Brandon Carr in free agency and the drafting of Morris Claiborne at No. 6 overall. The Cowboys finished 19th overall, which is better than the previous season where it finished 23rd with Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins as the starters at cornerback. When you see the lack of turnovers created by a secondary that lost two players to injury, it raises concern about the schemes. Ryan had the corners play more zone, when Carr and Claiborne liked playing tight man coverage.

Ryan's defense was missing five starters because of injuries and had numerous backups seeing action that were signed in the last two months of the season. You could point to Ryan being without his starting and backup nose tackles -- Josh Brent (arrest) and Ratliff (health) -- as a reason for the struggles against the run during the last three weeks of the season.

DeMarcus Ware's health, played with bad elbow and shoulder, were other problems. But Jerry Jones said after the season injuries happen to every team and sometimes you have to overcome them.

Maybe Ryan needs to return as a position coach to re-evaluate his mistakes or how he runs his schemes. There were times we thought he was being too cute -- sometimes there were 12 men on the field; once there were nine. Ryan picked up a bad penalty in Cincinnati, too.

Ryan is a good coach. Maybe a year away from the game or taking on a lesser role with another team might help him in the future.
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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