Mac Engel

May 28, 2014

This Cowboys defense is testing Jason Garrett’s positive outlook

There will be no worries if these six players can fill in the gap left by Sean Lee.

Jason Garrett does not like to use the term “worry” because it has a negative connotation. He prefers to focus on the things he can control, so at least he no longer has to wonder if his best defensive player is going to get hurt.

That part is, sadly, already out of the way.

Sean Lee, you’re a good dude who deserves better, but … these things continue to happen for a head coach whose mission is simply to get better every day. That is hard when Sean Lee is out for the year.

There is no bigger “worry,” or thing Coach Garrett can control, than a defense that continues to scare the living bleep out of all of us, and it’s not Week 1.

“Worry” is indeed a negative word, so we are only going to think about the positives that we can control. Here is a list of the six defenders who need to be “positive-ified” for the Cowboys in 2014:

•  DeMarcus Lawrence & Tyrone Crawford.

Looking at the depth chart of the Cowboys’ front seven, their best player is now Henry Melton, who is coming off knee surgery.

The remaining members of this front seven, which one year ago was not particularly good, will rely heavily on the mandatory development of linemen Crawford and Lawrence.

Lawrence is a rookie, so don’t expect much. Not because he’s bad but because he won’t have a clue.

Crawford blew out his Achilles on the first day of training camp last season. The Cowboys are counting on, and promoting, Crawford as if he is already there even though he has 16 career tackles, and no sacks.

“I think he has potential,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli told me.

He better have potential, because it’s not as if he has proven production.

No reason to be worried; it just needs to be “positive-ified”

•  Bruce Carter.

The linebacking unit depends almost exclusively on Carter’s ability to regain whatever he lost last season.

No Cowboy, who wasn’t hurt, regressed as much as this man one year ago. He looked lost in the team’s transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3.

As good as he looked in 2012, he looked that bad in 2013. It defied logic. Carter either gets it, or he is going to be dumped after the season.

He showed enough in 2012 to believe he can produce, and fill the void that Lee’s absence creates.

Again, no reason to be worried; Carter just needs to be “positive-ified”

•  Brandon Carr & Morris Claiborne.

He has not missed a game since he signed with the Cowboys in 2012, yet Carr has become a favorite target of blame.

He was never as good as the five-year, $50 contract he signed to leave Kansas City; when he was with the Chiefs, he had a little more help. Carr is paid like a shutdown corner, but he needs help.

Claiborne is supposed to be the shutdown corner. Since being drafted sixth overall three years ago — because he was rated as the best defensive player in the draft — he has been erratic, at best.

Last season he was limited to 10 games because of injury, was benched and looked like a mess. He was not a confident player.

“This year has to be it for me,” he said.

No reason to be worried; Claiborne just needs to be “positive-ified”

•  The Cowboys passed on drafting a safety because they believe in second-year pro J.J. Wilcox.

“It did make me feel good,” Wilcox said. “It shows they have a lot of trust in me.”

Wilcox looks stronger, but that he has only played this position for two years, and played at Georgia Southern, can no longer be excuses. He’s a big hitter, and more comfortable near the line of scrimmage, but he has to show some skills and range as a center fielder, where he was bad last season.

“I have to get better in the middle of the field,” he said.

If more than 50 percent of these are hits, the Cowboys can overcome Lee’s loss.

No reason to be worried; Wilcox, along with these other five players, just need to be “positive-ified.”

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