January 24, 2012

Jerry Jones foresees changes in Cowboys secondary

The Cowboys appear to be changing their approach to fixing the defense.

MOBILE, Ala. -- Owner Jerry Jones believes the Dallas Cowboys have the players to have a good team next season. But he promises there will be new faces on defense, particularly on a back end that gave up 13 pass plays of 30 yards or more in the final six games.

"Over in the secondary, I do think we'll get better. We're very likely to have new faces over there," Jones said. "I can't tell you who. But we will have new faces. We all know we'll have new faces on the team, no matter what, player-wise."

That'll mean a big change from the approach last year, when the Cowboys brought back 10 of the 11 starters from the 2010 defense that gave up the most points in team history. A year ago, the Cowboys opted to change the defensive coordinator, bringing in Rob Ryan from Cleveland.

Still, some faces from the 2011 team aren't going anywhere.

The Cowboys extended the contracts of safety Gerald Sensabaugh and cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Starting right cornerback Mike Jenkins, signed through 2012, impressed the Cowboys by playing well despite shoulder and leg injuries.

The new faces are more likely to appear in other areas.

Left cornerback Terence Newman is signed through 2014, and due to make $8 million next year, but his play slipped over the last half of the season, and Jones acknowledged Monday there might have been a skill-level drop-off in the nine-year veteran.

The contracts of strong safety Abe Elam and backup cornerbacks Alan Ball and Frank Walker expired when the season ended.

Elam was brought in to help with the transition to Rob Ryan's defensive scheme, and he stabilized the play of the secondary for much of the season.

He was the fifth-leading tackler and started all 16 games, but he didn't have an interception or a sack.

Walker was signed off the street in Week 2 and made plays early. But he was inactive for the season finale with the NFC East on the line.

Ball had an interception and seven passes defensed, but he had only five special teams tackles, and he botched a chance to recover a muffed punt in the Week 16 game against the New York Giants.

Jones, speaking Monday at the Senior Bowl, didn't talk about Walker or Ball, but he said it wouldn't surprise him to see Elam return, even though it would mean both starting safeties would be back from last year's secondary.

"We'll just have to see how it goes," Jones said. "Certainly, he was the quarterback. He really knew the defense. So it would not be a surprise -- it's not a given -- but it wouldn't be a surprise for him to be there."

If the Cowboys want to look for safety help in the draft, when they pick 14th in the first round, they might have the chance to take one of the top prospects, Alabama's Mark Barron.

"At that part of the draft, I have him going 16th," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said.

Jones said watching the Baltimore Ravens' defense in the AFC Championship Game re-emphasized the value of good safety play.

Jones said he did not give coach Jason Garrett a mandate to fix the secondary. Instead, fixing the secondary is part of what Jones called a "multi-pronged approach" to getting the Cowboys ready for next year.

"I think we've got a lot of work to do," Jones said. "We've got a young head coach who's got a staff that we've made a couple of changes on.... What you're supposed to if you're young, smart and ambitious is get in and make adjustments, and I expect that in the off-season and expect it to be positive for our team. I think we'll coordinate that with what I do, we do, in personnel, and that way they've got a chance to get better."

Carlos Mendez


Twitter @calexmendez

Related content



Sports Videos