OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 13: Quarterback JaMarcus Russell #2 of the Oakland Raiders is sacked by Keith Brooking #51 of the Dallas Cowboys in the first quarter during the preseason game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on August 13, 2009 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Dallas was vocal in their desire to increase turnovers from 2008 to 2009 from a defensive standpoint, an aspect of the game at which they were pretty bad last year, ranking 30th in the league in interceptions (8) and 30th in turnover differential (-11).
Despite this commitment, though, the unit has yet to record an interception through three games this preseason. While different guys had different theories on the lack of turnovers, they were united in the thought that the interceptions, that the turnovers, will come in due time.
Bradie James, who has led the team in tackles each of the past four years, chalked it up to the lack of creativity throughout the defense at this early juncture.
"It's kind of tough in the preseason because you're so vanilla," James said. "You know, during the preseason it's a chance to see where you are but you don't put in all your schemes. You don't make excuses, but you know what counts is when we get ready to play Tampa in a couple weeks. With us just playing base defense, I think we performed decently."
Defensive end Igor Olshansky cited the balance between sacks and interceptions in his reasoning, arguing that the two stats are inversely related. "Well I think it comes with teams that get sacks, a lot of sacks, the interceptions go down, and vice versa, kind of goes interchangeable like that," he said. "If you have a lot of interceptions, the sacks will go down. You got to pick what you want."
"I think they come in bunches," added Keith Brooking, who will fill the inside linebacking spot opposite James in 2009. "It's not for a lack of talking about it, thinking about it, communicating that to one another, being very conscious about it, because when you have that going throughout your defense it makes a huge difference. I feel very good about our defensive team, period. And great defensive teams obviously create turnovers and put their offense in good positions throughout the course of games, throughout the course of seasons."
This is a hopeful stance by Brooking, who will be an upgrade from Zach Thomas, the man that filled the role last year but never really seemed comfortable in Wade Phillips' 3-4. He might also be right, though. If Dallas stays healthy, they will likely be noticeably better than they were a year ago, with Gerald Sensabaugh providing a quiet but tangible upgrade at safety, and Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick on the heels of impressive showings in camp. Of course, the way things have been going for Dallas--with six injuries among rookies alone--health is anything but a certainty.
"Those things will come," added Brooking.