|Would Sean Lee excel at middle linebacker if Dallas switched from the 3-4 to the 4-3 defense? (US Presswire)|
Coach Jason Garrett hinted at a bigger change in his statement about Ryan's dismissal.
"At this time, the decision has been made to move forward in a different direction philosophically on defense."
The transition to a 4-3 wouldn't be too difficult, according to the National Football Post's Brad Biggs. He noted OLB DeMarcus Ware could excel at end in a 4-3 scheme, and that NT Jay Ratliff and LBs Sean Lee and Bruce Carter could thrive in their new roles. Biggs said Lee “would be ideal as a middle linebacker.”
Ryan was fired with one year left on his three-year deal. The Cowboys, racked by injuries to key players like Ratliff and Lee, finished 24th in points allowed (25 pg) and 19th in yards allowed (355.4 pg).
They forced 16 turnovers, a franchise low that tied for fourth-fewest in the NFL. And they finished 22nd against the run (125.2 ypg).
Lovie Smith, Monte Kiffin, Dave Wannstedt and Ray Horton are some of the names floating around as potential replacements. All those coaches employ a 4-3.
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The Cowboys aren't unfamiliar with the 4-3 because they used it in certain sub-packages this season.
After Dallas finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs for a third straight year, owner Jerry Jones promised changes. He said he felt he had to do something "almost unconventional" to "break out of that cycle."
Perhaps that "unconventional" move means going back to the more conventional 4-3.
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