After the Dallas Cowboys' defense regressed last season, Coach Bill Parcells made it a point to fortify that group primarily through the draft. Five of the team's first six picks were defensive players, and the organization has especially high expectations for its top two selections: linebacker Demarcus Ware (11th overall) and defensive end Marcus Spears (20th).
With the pass rush presumably addressed, Parcells added 305-pound Jason Ferguson to buttress the middle of the defensive line as the Cowboys move to a 3-4 scheme. Parcells also reinforced the cornerbacks by adding free agents Anthony Henry and Aaron Glenn.
Keith Davis, entering his third season, is the leading candidate to start at free safety after five-time Pro Bowl selection Darren Woodson retired. Also gone is three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Dexter Coakley, who signed with the St. Louis Rams.
"The transition on the team now every year is just so great," Parcells said. "It's not like you can . . . just keep the same guys you know are pretty good players, and they develop, and they get better and better, and they can't leave you. That's the way it used to be. As long as you got some good ones, you can hold on to them and create a depth within your ranks, and you never really have the transition you have now. So it's a constant work in progress."
Expect safety Roy Williams and linebacker Dat Nguyen, who will remain on the inside in the 3-4, to help the younger players develop.