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Cowboys Most Important Player - Defensive Edition

Who's the Most Important Player on Defense for the Pokes in 2015?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to all who read the offensive edition, it featured a blow out poll victory by Mason Rudolph (Surprise).  What about the defensive side of the ball?  Who's the most important player?  In other words, who is the most pivotal to the success of the defense?  If this player is absent it is highly detrimental to the success of the defense.

I think we all know the best player on the defense is Emmanuel Ogbah.  No other player on the defense is a projected first round draft pick (some have a top 10 grade on the star DE).  If you want to get pumped for the season or for a workout watch Ogbah sack the Big 12 and the first overall pick in last years NFL Draft here.  He anchors the defensive end position for the Cowboys and should wreck havoc on offenses again this season.

Here's the deal with defensive ends, you can, for all intents and purposes, make them one dimensional.  You can scheme the running game away from them if you choose.  You can double team them on passing plays.  Sure some greats, Ogbah may be one of them, will even beat the double team.  Which is why I say the pass rush dimension is still there.  With the ability to take away Ogbah for a chunk of the game this takes him out of my MIP running.

The defensive tackle position is likely the weakest unit of the defense.  Losing James Castleman at both the defensive tackle and offensive weapon position leaves a void.  His offensive production should be easier to replace.  Trying to fill the void left on defense is Vincent Taylor and Vili Leveni.  Taylor reportedly looked capable at the Orange White game while Leveni had to sit out the scrimmage with an injury.  This will be a significant issue as the DT position helps stop the run and free up the likes of Ogbah and Jimmy Bean at DE.  It's going to be vital that a couple of new DT's step up for the 2015 season.  If Taylor or Leveni can step into the big shoes vacated by Castleman this defense can go from good to great and could leave some fans thinking, "Mason Who?"

Yeah, like that would ever happen.

The linebacker position suffered only one significant loss, Josh Furman, who was selected in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.  They return the two other starters, Ryan Simmons and Seth Jacobs.  Promising young players Justin Phillips, Gyasi Akem and Cal transfer Chad Whitener help provide depth here, a group considered the deepest in Gundy's tenure.  The question mark is who takes over for Furman at the "Star" linebacker position.  It could be Jacobs with one of the younger guys taking his spot.

Simmons is the leader of this group and considered the leader of the defense.  He was relied heavily upon for leadership last season.  Losing Simmons would hurt the defense but in my opinion someone would move into the position and keep the defense on track.  That's the luxury of depth.  Due to the overall depth I removed Simmons from my MIP consideration.

The secondary is loaded at the cornerback position, going six deep.  Four of the six have significant playing (starter) time under their belt.  Kevin Peterson should be in the running for all Big 12 honors at seasons end.  Due to the depth at the position I don't see the possible loss of Peterson as pivotal and in turn don't consider anyone at the corner back position the "Most Important Player".

If any player in the secondary should be considered the MIP it would have to be safety Jordan Sterns.  Sterns was tied for ninth in the Big 12 in total tackles with 103 (61 solo), including 20(!) against West Virginia.  As most of you probably know the safety represents the last line of defense.  Meaning, the defense had a rough go last year, take away Sterns, and it could've been worse.  Safety is the one position where depth could be an issue.  With the departure of Deric Robertson this offseason it puts Sophomore Dylan Harding as the next in line behind Jordan Sterns.  Sterns has played in every game, sans the season opener of 2013 (Holy durability), and brings a physical presence to the Cowboys much like former Texas safety Earl Thomas.  Maybe Oklahoma State is truly becoming DBU....

My MIP:  Jordan Sterns.  I believe the drop off from him to the backup is just too significant this season.  I also believe a weak safety can leave the defense very vulnerable in the Big 12 (something about Baylor and TCU can be inserted here I'm sure).

Who do you think is the Defensive MIP?  Vote below!