Bryan Broaddus chatted with us a few weeks ago, and things went so well that we wanted to do it again today.
As you may already know, Bryan is a long-time scout and personnel man in the NFL. His experience served the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers well, and now we can pick his brain.
Last time, the chat was 100% about the offense, and the various ideas Jason Garrett may utilize and employ this season, so now let's examine the defense with Broaddus.
You can follow his Rapid Reports on CBS Sportsline and can find him on ESPN Radio.
Here is what we discussed this time:
Bob: Last time, we spent time on the offense, let's give a bit of love to the defense. So how good is this unit as a whole with 2 weeks until "go time"?
Bryan: I really like what they have done by adding Sensabaugh, Brooking and Olshansky. I think they are big upgrades across the board. I do worry a bit about the pass rush opposite Ware.
Bob: Sensabaugh is interesting to me. I get very concerned about someone so cheap and so young who is pretty much cast aside at his old locale. Should I not worry about his pricetag?
Bryan: No, I talked with several of my friends who I worked with in Jacksonville. They all had high praise for him as a player but they felt that there was some areas where they just needed to move on. I have talked with him several times in the locker room and I love his attitude.
Bob: What is his best skill? He seems like a bit of a ball hawk, no?
Bryan: Ball hawk, down hill player, loves the game. Has a nice skill set for a safety.
Bob: What about Brooking? How is he different/similar to Zach Thomas? I think most fans have those two as birds of a feather from first glance. Break those two down for me.
Bryan: Thomas is a productive, shorter player that wore down as the season went along. He had a decent fit with Bradie James where Brooking is bigger, stronger and can still run. He and Bradie have really hit it off which is outstanding for the defense.
Bob: Is one of the more under-rated stories in the offseason losing Kevin Burnett? It seems that they were far more comfortable with him as a nickel LB than 54. I am not sure if he would have made sense as a base MLB, but it seemed like they didn't want to lose him.
Bryan: They lost him because his agent didn't weigh all the facts. The Cowboys loved Burnett and he really did play an important role. I am not a huge Carpenter fan as in most Cowboys' fans. In talking with my front office sources, again, the agent is to be blamed for allowing Burnett to leave.
Bob: Would Burnett staying have mitigated the need for Brooking? Or, is a base MLB still a void that is a year-to-year situation? I don't recall the timing on Brooking/Burnett
Bryan: The move was made because the more you studied Thomas, the more you realized that a changed was needed but Burnett maybe wasn't that guy. Again, he played a very good role as the nickel and I feel that is where the Cowboys were going to keep him.
Bob: Let me give you my full scouting report (having never scouted) on Bobby Carpenter: A finesse LB who doesn't like dropping anchor at the point of attack. Plays on roller skates. Doesn't enjoy contact. Decent in coverage going backwards, but very inconsistent moving forward. How far off am I?
Bryan: Not a bad. Carpenter really struggles at times when he has to play with his hands. One of the key traits a linebacker needs is an ability to fight off blocks. His speed is good which helps him in space but there does come a point in time where you need to be physical at the point of attack and there are several plays where you don't see that.
Bob: Are they to a point where they are ready to move on? I know he is a fairly big part of special teams, but you should be able to find those guys for nothing (Carlos Polk?)
Bryan: Its funny, I hear all the time that he is a major part of their special teams but when I trained my eye on him in the Tennessee game, he ran down the field and was out of position on the play. I want to see this three to four tackle a game special teamer. I don't think they have moved on but I think Jason Williams was drafted to one day take that spot.
Bob: I won't even mention that David Buehler had more tackles than 54 in the Oakland game.
Bryan: Impressive, wasn't it?
Bob: Ok, now Olshansky. Is there a drop off from Canty? And is New York nuts for dropping $42 million? I am not even considering his injury- just what I considered ordinary play.
Bryan: I like Chris but the price was a little rich for my blood. The Giants are playing him at the perfect spot and that is as a 3 technique over the guard. When he played in the nickel for the Cowboys at that spot he was very effective. Olshansky is just a plugger. There is nothing pretty about his play but he is very hard to move. If you are looking for pass rush, forget it. He will sure play the run but I hope he can stay healthy.
Bob: Plug the run, no pass rush? Sounds like Marcus Spears to me!
Bryan: I have to be honest about my LSU brother, he has been a huge disappointment. We didn't have the right vision for him when we drafted him.
Bob: Safe to say that he is playing his last year here? Given Canty's offer, I bet Spears will certainly be well compensated by someone. But the Cowboys have to know that it won't be them.
Bryan: The nice thing about Stephen Jones is that he knows when it's time to move on. He is not afraid to pay players but he will not overpay one's that can't.
Bob: Ok, you referenced the pass rush opposite Ware earlier. The team led the league in sacks, but part of that is Ellis meeting 94 at the QB. Is Spencer ready?
Bryan: Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips are banking on this very thought. If Spencer does have a breakout season, this defense has a chance to be in the top five easy. If Spencer struggles or gets hurt (again) I just don't know who helps them in that spot. Ellis was the safety net, now the Cowboys are on the high wire without it.
Bob: Spencer worries me a bit in the open field. I was under the impression he was a bit quicker, but Russell really made him look silly in Oakland on one play where he was grasping air. His hips look sort of stiff for a kid. to me, at least.
Bryan: I really studied Spencer while in San Antonio. There were some days where he looked outstanding in space and in coverage which really surprised me. I do think he has the quickness to be a good passer rusher but I worry about his technique at times.
Bob: Tell me what Mike Jenkins has done to impress you so far
Bryan: To be honest, I am a Scandrick fan but hold my feet to the fire, Jenkins does have some pretty amazing catch up speed. Because when you are out of position, you better be able to rally to get to the football and he has shown that to me.
Bob: Does he know where he needs to be? It appears he is a "guesser" out there. That gets good sometimes, but bad more often. the td he allowed on Friday night was more of the same I thought. It looks like he needs someone to hold his hand out there. Scandrick does not need that at all.
Bryan: I said this the other day, I think he has wonderful God given talent which helps him make plays but I do agree with you, there is something to studying, reading routes and playing with awareness which I think he sometimes doesn't do.
Bob: What do we need to consider when looking at which CB is better wide and which is better in the slot?
Bryan: Any corner will tell you that it's more difficult to play in the slot than wide because in the slot you have to cover more field. That is why I think that Scandrick is so good. He looks so comfortable play either way and I think the coaches know that.
Bob: I agree. A few more question, please.
Bob: This may be basic for you, but for those of us who are not personnel people, tell us what coverages Wade Phillips generally uses in his secondary
Bryan: That's a good question because the other day in the Tennessee game on the touchdown to Gage, I thought he was in Cover 2 and Jenkins after the game said they were in 2 but after visiting with some other guys in the locker room it sounded like they were playing 2 on one side and something else on the other. I even had a guy tell me that they were in Cover 6, which is four across. So it's still a work in progress.
Bob: But the majority of the time, they roll with cover 2?
Bryan: Again in some form or fashion, yes.
Bob: And in cover 2, a CB is in man principles at the line, with safety help over the top (zone deep), right?
Bryan: Corner has the area short, and the safety has the area behind.
Bob: I ask because I wondered how that changes when you play a running threat at the QB position (Vick). Do you have to play more zone type defense against running threats because your CB's can not have their back to the QB?
Bryan: Over the years, people have played Vick a bunch of different ways. They always talk about the "spy" but how do you spy with someone that is probably a worse athlete than the guy you are trying to spy. But to answer you question in the most simple way, you really just try and keep things in front of you. If I was going to play Vick, I would play zone and make him try and beat me throwing the ball.
Bob: OK, last question. Which defensive rookies will make a real impact this year? Is there a guy or two?
Bryan: thinking....I really think the kickoff guy is going to be a huge weapon. I like Victor Butler a lot because he is smart and he looks like he has some position flexiability. I really had high hopes for Stephen Hodge as a Keith Davis type of special teamer but this fluid on the knee thing has me scared. Keep an eye on DeAngelo Smith, I have heard some good whispers about him and his make up.
Bob: Cool. Again, thanks for the time. I look forward to bothering you again down the road. Thanks!
Bryan: Bothering is good...thanks Bob