Thinner, quieter Rob Ryan paying off for Dallas Cowboys defense

IRVING -- Jerry Jones has said Rob Ryan had a "come to Jesus" year in 2011, which forced him to make changes. The Dallas Cowboy' defensive coordinator agreed some things have changed.

"I'm lighter. Feel good," Ryan said. "I'm only talking to the media once a week now. I guess hopefully I change for the better."

Ryan, who is in his second year with the Cowboys, is 55 pounds lighter after surgery with Dr. Adam Smith at Fort Worth Lap-Band in February. He is less talkative, too, vowing to submit only to the once-weekly sessions required under the NFL's media access policy. The outspoken Ryan said it was his idea to talk less.

"I'm just trying to do the right thing," Ryan said. "I don't think I need to be a distraction for this football team. There is a way the Dallas Cowboys do things, and I think that's a professional way to do it. I don't need to be outspoken out there. I'm going to let our players do our talking. It's time to quit talking and start doing something. That's what we all buy into as a defense. That's what I buy into, and that's what we're all believing in."

The Cowboys blew five fourth-quarter leads last season. They allowed 3,906 passing yards, the second-most in team history. Worse, the Cowboys finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

"I still stand behind the job I did last season," Ryan said. "I wasn't horrendous. I know everybody says I was, but I wasn't. Believe me."

The Cowboys, who gave up 746 passing yards and five touchdowns to Eli Manning in two games last season, made changes in the off-season. They had five new starters in the season opener last week, including cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Dallas limited Manning to only 213 yards and one touchdown in its season-opening 24-17 victory.

"I think there's no question that just the style that he has that the more time he has with players is a plus," Jones said this week. "We benefited from that the other night -- that he's had more time. The thing that really has impressed me about him, and I think generally defines him, is his ability to adjust. In other words, recognizing that he needs to do things differently.

"It's one thing to say, 'Hey, it's on me.' It's another to say, 'I'll take that.' But doing something about it is really what's admirable. I've seen him do it. I know what we started with at the end of last year. I know what we tried and said we wanted to do in the off-season, and I watched it on the field the other night. We have done it."

The Cowboys rank seventh in total defense, including fifth against the pass, after the first week. There is no doubt they are better. The question is: How much better?

"We plan on being an excellent defense, and if everything goes right, then we will be," Ryan said. "But we've got a lot to prove."

Charean Williams


Twitter: @NFLCharean

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