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)
One gets the feeling that when Keith Brooking speaks, the Cowboys listen. Brooking looks, early on, to be the answer to the highly vocalized questions of leadership on defense, a gamer who leads with actions and, if necessary, words. It just never usually gets to that point.
The defense has been okay this year. But that's not good enough for Brooking, who on Wednesday delivered a flat assessment of a defense that could be a lot better.
"We've got to make more game changing plays, when our backs are against the wall, our offense is struggling," Brooking said. "Because they are gonna bail us out this year, there is no doubt, before the season is over, we've got to put them in better situations. That's how you become a dominating defense--for four quarters. "I've said it before, you can play 9 out of 10 snaps great, and then if one snap, somebody's not doing what they are supposed to do it will expose you in a heartbeat in this league and if they beat you because of that, obviously you didn't do enough defensively.
"So we just got to be more consistent, play in, play out, week in, week out "
This is something Brooking has done deftly in his short time with the Cowboys.
The 33 year-old is tied for the team lead in tackles with Bradie James with 26, and he seems a likely candidate to take the title of leading tackler from James for the first time in four years. Saying that Brooking has been the defense's MVP through the first quarter of the season is no stretch; and as far as leadership, Brooking's is a presence that commands respect with little need for words.
Asked on Wednesday if he was comfortable as a vocal leader, Brooking said, matter-of-factly, "I'm going to do whatever it takes for us to win."
Even with the considerable problems Dallas has encountered through four games, it's hard not to believe him.