Mac Engel

Cowboys still searching for someone to replace latest Ring of Honor player

Owner Jerry Jones announced Darren Woodson as the newest member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor on Tuesday — now if only he could find a safety in the mold of the former All-Pro.
Owner Jerry Jones announced Darren Woodson as the newest member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor on Tuesday — now if only he could find a safety in the mold of the former All-Pro. AP

Darren Woodson is going into the Ring of Honor, and he should be going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On Tuesday, Jerry Jones announced that Woodson will be inducted into the Ring of Honor — ’bout bleeping time. No team does its de facto Hall of Fame any better — only the very best are included. Woody was the best.

To the local voting scribes who nominate and lobby for players from the Cowboys to get into the Ring of Honor — lookin’ at you, Charean Williams and Goose Gosselin — get Woodson into the Pro HOF. Cliff Harris, too. Then Jerry. Then Woody.

There has been no search any more frustrating and fruitless than the one this organization has endured to find a safety in the same league as Darren Woodson. Guys such as Roy Williams and even Ken Hamlin had a good season or two at safety, but nobody has come close to what this man could do on a field, or in a locker room.

He didn’t have the panache or mouth of Deion Sanders or Charles Haley, both of whom are Hall of Famers, but Woodson was the spirit and professionalism of that dynasty Cowboys defense. Listening to him talk on Tuesday was a reminder of how good that defense was, and how often that unit was overlooked because the offense was so dominant and intimidating.

As frightening as that Triplets offense was, the defense was the best kind of bad.

“Defensively, and it’s almost what is going on out here now, we have a lot of young guys that were fast, quick to the ball,” Woodson said. “There were a lot of no-name guys but guys that had urgency to who they were. It meant something.”

Woody was the quietest bad man out there. He knew he was good, yet he was a consummate pro. He didn’t suffer fools, or layabouts.

It would be nice if somebody in this current crew of defensive backs could take a shot at being Darren Woodson.

Woodson was the one guy who former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells inherited when he came here in 2003 that he did not want to retire. There were even brief discussions about Woodson coming out of retirement after he was done after the ’03 season.

The current crop of Cowboys safeties, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox, are coming off good to decent seasons, but this defense still needs that edge that a man like Woodson provided.

The closest “edge” we have seen so far from this secondary is from Tyler Patmon’s catfight with Dez Bryant on Sunday in practice. The only player in the secondary who plays with an edge is Orlando Scandrick. The rest are nice guys.

“We feel good about our safeties,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Those guys are good players, but they have a long way to go. J.J. Wilcox has a great feel for the position, but he needs more experience. Barry Church is one of the true leaders of our defense.”

Granted, Darren Woodsons generally don’t come out of football ATM machines, but every season since he retired illustrated how special he was.

“He had every intangible,” said Garrett, who practiced against Woodson. “Right from the start his level of toughness, his physical toughness and his mental toughness, I thought [were] rare.”

The way NFL offenses throw the ball, and with the rules that favor the receivers, the Cowboys need another Woodson. He could play near the line, and help on coverage.

Church is a good tackler, and a solid player. He embodied last season’s defense.

“They were tough,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said.

They were tough, and they made the most out of what they had, which was not enough talent.

Wilcox is entering his third year and would a fight a starving bear if asked, but his coverage skills don’t seem to be there yet.

The unknown is first-round pick Byron Jones. The Cowboys are looking at him at safety, provided former first-round pick Morris Claiborne is something more than a complete and total bust.

There are several moving parts to this secondary, which no doubt needs help from a pass rush that was nonexistent to erratic last season. If the pass rush remains as bad as it was last season, it doesn’t matter who is in the secondary.

Learning of Woodson’s Ring of Honor invite and watching the Cowboys trying to again improve their secondary, and his old safety spot, was a reminder how good he was and hard it has been to find his replacement.

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Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog

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