JJT: Kris Richard Wants a Defense Filled With Savages

“It’s a hard-ass, physical mentality with a chip on your shoulder.” - Richard

The Cowboys football messiah wears white-and-blue Nike cleats to practice and speaks with a Baptist minister’s cadence.

He is authentic - a man’s man, if you will - who is as comfortable discussing his love for his players and former coaches as he is the three-deep zone the Cowboys will employ liberally this season.

Kris Richard, who outgrew Seattle according to some close to him, left Seattle after eight seasons after rising from defensive assistant in 2010 to coordinator in 2015.

Richard has been the Cowboys passing game defensive coordinator for six months.

The transformation, thus far, has been stunning.

You can see it in practice, the way Richard runs excitedly around the field disseminating detailed instructions to individuals after every play.

You can see, hear and feel Richard’s passion. You can see, hear and feel his impact on the players.

“When he says it you believe it. He got proof,” cornerback Anthony Brown said. “He got it on paper. He’s been to the Super Bowl twice. He came from a great defense and we believe it.

“Whatever he says, when we go onto the field it comes to life. It’s like this dude knows everything so we trust him.”

They trust Richard because he speaks with conviction about everything he says to them in a meeting room.

It started on the day he introduced himself and his philosophy to the Cowboys’ defensive players.

His speech that day had little to do with the infamous Legion of Boom he coached in Seattle because he wants the Cowboys to establish their own identity.

So he did not talk a whole lot about Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Their careers speak for themselves.

“This is the Dallas Cowboys defense. This is the Dallas Cowboys secondary,” Richard said. “If we want to play with a particular style we’re more than capable of doing it but we gotta buy in and make it real every day.

“We’re not trying to be them. We’re tying to be us. If we want to have success then this has been the formula that has been successful in the past.”

Nor, did Richard talk much about introducing more Cover 3 into the Cowboys’ scheme as well as more man-to-man coverage.

He did not talk about the plan to blitz more often either.

What he did talk about was playing with an attitude we have not seen in Dallas since the Super Bowl teams of the 90s.

That is not to say these Cowboys will win a Super Bowl or even contend for one. But without the right approach, they have no chance.

“He said we’re going to be some dogs, some savages,” Brown said. “That’s what I remember.”

Richard, like any coach, chose not to divulge the specifics of that first meeting with the team, so he spoke in generalities.

“You have to have a ruthless mentality and you gotta hit,” Richard said. “We all want that type of football team. We want a team that’s going to hit down after down after down.

“We give them the truth, then it becomes our responsibility to come out here and make it a reality. It’s not just talking about it, it’s being about it.

“It’s a bunch of guys playing together. Running, hitting celebrating then lining up and doing it again the next play.”

In the secondary, it starts with playing fundamentally-sound football the way former USC secondary coach Dennis Thurman - who played eight of his nine NFL seasons with the Cowboys - taught him when he played in college; the way former Cowboys linebacker Ken Norton showed him as a member of Seattle’s coaching staff.

Players who use flawless technique can mask deficiencies brought about by injuries or age, making them more reliable.

Richard is teaching all of the Cowboys’ defensive backs the same techniques. Individuality has been replaced by uniformity.

It is part of the reason why the linebackers and defensive backs have joint meetings. It allows everyone to understand their role in zone concepts and for everyone to learn together.

“This is an each one teach one defense, and if we all buy into the same technique we can all correct each other,” Richard said. “if we love each other enough to do so.

“The older you get in life, the more you recognize it’s not about you - and it never has been. If you can learn early on it’s about the man next to you because now we are chasing substance rather than the stuff that is fleeting."

“I wanna get mine. I gotta get this. I wanna get paid well all that (expletive) is gonna go away, but the relationship that we create lasts forever, and that’s real.”

The secondary has been excellent throughout training camp and starting cornerbacks Chido Awuzie and Byron Jones have played well.

Jones, a former No.1 pick, has been solid in his first three seasons with the Cowboys as he split time between corner and safety.

At 6'1", 199 pounds, Jones has prototypical size in Richard’s scheme. Richard prefers tall cornerbacks who can smother receivers with their size and length at the line of scrimmage.

Jones is in the midst of his best offseason. Now, the Cowboys just need him to sustain it during the regular season.

“I like being in someone’s face, and I like the reactionary component to the game,” Jones said. “I love coach Richard’s energy.”

Awuzie, a second-round pick in 2017, has also played well in training camp. He prides himself on being cerebral.

“I like having the one-on-one matchup against an opponent and studying him like a boxer,” Awuzie said. “Coach Richard has taught me the importance of patience.

“Until they make a move vertically, I’m not going for anything they do.”

This remains Rod Marinell’s defense, but Richard’s impact will be noticeable. It begins with their approach, and listening to the gospel according to Richard.

“They want to be a bad ass every time they step on the field,” Richard said. “Every time you step out there it’s about whether you can physically dominate the man across from you.

“It’s a hard-ass, physical mentality with a chip on your shoulder.”

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