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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports


Jim O’Neil discusses the Cowboys’ “explosive” offense

Sep 27, 2016 at 2:18 PM


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Opening comments:

"Obviously, not the result we were looking for heading up to Seattle. I think when you look back on that game, if you just focus on the three attributes we try to talk about as a defense; relentless, accountable, productive. As far as relentless, I thought our guys played hard. I think that they played really hard for the first three games of the season and I think that that has shown with how we've been able to get turnovers with a lot of exceptional second-effort plays. The next one, accountable, I think at times we've done a really good job playing great team defense and then at times, it's a guy or two that's made a mistake and then that's what's hurt us and that's where the explosive plays are coming. So, that's where we've just got to do a great job learning from our mistakes, continuing to grow as a defense, do a better job coaching it and becoming more accountable to each other and trusting that the guy next to you is going to get his job done. And then the last one, productive, we talked about this a little bit last week, we want our guys to make plays and as our guys get more comfortable in this scheme, I think we'll make more plays on third down. That's the money down. That's where we've got to get off the field, which we did not do a good job of this past week. Questions?"

Jim O'Neil: Cowboys Have an 'Explosive Offense'  

Do you guys run the risk of being so multiple that there's more confusion on defense? You guys have given up a lot of big plays the last two weeks.

"Yeah. I would say that we're not as multiple as perceived. A lot of it is just the same thing and maybe one guy doing a different job. But, the things that we messed up were day one type stuff which you know, like I said, we've got to do a better job coaching and we've got to do a better job executing."

What happened on that first play?

"The first play? [DB] Jimmie Ward made a really good play versus empty and knocked the ball loose."

I was thinking the long run, the third play.

"Third play, we were misaligned."

Is that a noise factor?

"No, just misaligned. They gave us a formation into the boundary and we had a couple guys that didn't execute very good and then we were misaligned and we got hit."

Are you looking forward to Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, a rookie quarterback, as opposed to Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton? Maybe this defense can get humming back at home?

"Looking forward to Dak? No, I think he's playing really well right now. They are an explosive offensive. Very deep. Talented on the offensive line. They've got a great group of receivers. They've got some great young backs, [Dallas Cowboys TE] Jason Witten at tight end, you can go on and on. So, it's a very good offense and the quarterback's playing really well."

You're counting on some improvement at home against Dallas?

"Yeah. I count on improvement every week."

With Jimmie Ward out week-to-week with his quad strain, are you looking at CB Keith Reaser likely to go in as the starter or is CB Rashard Robinson in contention? How do you work that?

"I don't know if he's definitely out yet. So, I know he's going to be limited at the beginning of the week. So, we'll see what happens as the week progresses. But, we're still in the beginning phases of our game plan. We'll kind of iron out the rest of that stuff tonight. But, yeah, all those guys. If anybody gets injured and are out, guys have to step up."

Obviously, Reaser was kind of banged up when the season started and Rashard Robinson got a lot of snaps. This last week, it was more Reaser. What determines that and what have you seen from Reaser?

"How they practice. So, those guys know each week, if we're healthy, our third outside corner's either going to Rashard or Reaser based on who practices the best. Last week, it was Reaser. Two weeks ago, it was Rashard. It'll be up to them who it is this week."

That's physically? That's mentally? That's who's on the game plan?

"Yup. Who we feel best about at the end of the week."

Why do you do that?

"Why do we do that?"

"Why do we--."

Why do you make a week-to-week decision? Is that to promote competition?

"Because neither one, yeah, to promote competition and neither one of those guys has won the job outright. So, if they want it to be week-to-week every week, that's on them. If somebody wants to establish themselves as the solid two or three outside, then go do that. I'm all for it."

What do you think your young defensive linemen learned and took away from that game Sunday?

"I thought that early on we were on our heels a little bit, but then I thought as the game got going, we settled in. I thought we did some really good things up front. So, you hope they learn from some of the bad things we did and get that corrected and grow from it and then continue to grow with the good things we did."

Moving forward to Sunday, what kind of challenge does that Cowboys offensive line pose your defense?

"It's going to be a big challenge for us up front. It's a group that's been together. They're very good in the run and pass game and they're talented all over the field. So, it's not just a situation where you can say, 'Hey, we're going to put eight or nine guys in the box and stone the run here.' So, we're going to have to play great technique. We're going to have to execute our scheme. All 11 guys are going to have to play well."

You mentioned the defensive line and it was pretty apparent they seemed to be back on their heels just a little bit--?

"Not just the D-Line. I thought defensively, for whatever reason to start that game, we were just a little bit on our heels and I can help them a little bit more than probably what I did with some play calling to get them going, to get us going a little bit faster."

Is that a product of thinking too much or what?

"It's a great question for them."

When you face a less experienced quarterback, I know you have some stuff down on tape, but are there certain things that you do to test him early on to see what he's got and what he doesn't have, particularly early in the game?

"Sure, yeah. Anybody that's new in this league, whether it's on the offensive side of the ball or defensive side of the ball, you're always going to test them to see where they're at. Again, we haven't really started to build our plan yet. So, we're still getting into that right now. But, I do know I've watched some of the games and he's not playing like a rookie quarterback right now. He's playing like a quarterback that's been in the league for four or five years."

Specifically, like what?

"Route progressions. How he's getting rid of the ball. How he's checking plays based off of looks. How he's getting them in good run situations. How if it's not there, he's tucking it and running it and taking advantage of his athleticism. So, he's beyond his years right now as far as a rookie."

Your defensive right side to begin the game in the run game seemed to struggle a little bit and you've got a lot of young guys there. Is some of that technique? Is some of that conceptual? What do you think happened?

"Yeah. I just don't want to put it just on the defensive line. I think that it's a little bit of a combination of everything. I can help them out a little bit more call-wise. They can be better technique-wise and we've got to get lined up and execute."

Well, I wasn't just saying the line. Just saying your defensive right side there, the linebackers--?

"It's not just right and left, but the way the formations fell, some of the younger guys were on the right. But, I just think it's everybody. Everybody's got to do better. We weren't good enough on Sunday. Nobody."

How do you correct those mistakes that you said were day one mistakes? Moving forward, how do you correct--?

"We show it to them in the film room. You talk to them about it. 'Hey, what happened here? What were you thinking?' You know, you've got to get feedback. I think you've got to go into it with open eyes and you've got to want to grow. You've got to want to be corrected and grow as a football player, grow as a coach and then we'll come out here this afternoon in our walk-thru, we'll walk-thru all of our mistakes and then we'll sprinkle some of those mistakes into some of the full-speed stuff in practice that we made. So, you kind of, you show it to them and then you rep it at a walk-thru pace and then you're going to rep it again at a full-speed pace because it's a copycat league. Whatever hurts you is going to show back up. It's not going to go away."

With like the third play of the game where you see you guys are misaligned, does it make sense to call a timeout before that ball is snapped?

"Yeah, it just happens too fast. You'd love to--."

There's been a lot of draft capital, you know, most of the first, second and third round picks have been spent on defense in recent years which is great but also leaves a lot of younger-type players. How much does inexperience possibly play a role in some of these early season--?

"We've got a lot of guys who are playing a lot of meaningful plays very early in their careers. So, I mean, I don't want to say it's inexperience. I'll flip it the other way and say every play they get is just so valuable because they're learning how to communicate, they're learning how to gather pre-snap information and they're learning how to make plays and the more they're out there, you can't every simulate whatever happens on Sundays. The more they're out there, the better they're going to get, the more comfortable they're going to get and the more the game's going to slow down for them."

Do you feel confident you have the personnel right now to have a really good defense?

"Yeah. I think we've got a great coaching staff. I like our personnel. So, I want to get back to what we were Week 1. Let's play relentless, let's be accountable to each other and get your job done and let's make plays. Don't be scared to make plays. Play fearless. That's what we want."


* Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers
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