Tony Dungy knows a little something about the Tampa-Two defensive scheme that the Dallas Cowboys are running this season. He coached the system in Tampa Bay when Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli were on his staff.
No longer coaching, Dungy works as a analyst for NBC, the network that will be airing the Cowboys opener Sunday night against the New York Giants.
During a Tuesday conference call for Football Night in America, Dungy assessed where the Cowboys currently stand defensively.
“To me, the weakness will be the defensive line and getting those guys up to speed,” Dungy said. “I talked to [the Cowboys coaching staff] at the Hall of Fame Game and there were a lot of good things that took place. I know Monte Kiffin stressed hustling to the football, playing physical and creating turnovers. And I saw that in the preseason.
“That defense is based on four down-linemen being able to get pressure and control the line of scrimmage. Without [Jay] Ratliff playing and [Anthony] Spencer [not] getting a lot of time in the preseason, the health of that defensive line, to me, is what I’d be worried about. If those guys can play, and they get that good rotation of 6-7 guys on the defensive line, I think they can do some great things. But to me, that’s the question mark right now.”
The Cowboys entered training camp with a strong five-man rotation of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Spencer, Ratliff and Tyrone Crawford. But Ratliff, who was recently added to the physically unable to perform list, injured his groin, Crawford was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon and Spencer underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, leaving his availability for the season opener in question.
The defensive line is currently depending on that depth to come from unproven players like George Selvie, Kyle Wilber and Ben Bass and a pair of veterans — Nick Hayden and Landon Cohen — who haven’t started a game since 2010.
“It’s a good scheme,” Dungy said. “But scheme’s are only as good as your players. They’ve got some guys that fit in to that. I don’t know that they have the personnel in the front seven, yet, to do what they’re going to need to get done.
“When I got into Tampa, we had Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks there and we got Simeon Rice and loaded up with talent. That’s what wins in the NFL. Scheme’s are good, but you have to have talent that fits the scheme and I think that’s still developing.”