Welcome to the 2013 version of Insider's offseason staple series: Plugging the Holes. This marks the seventh of an eight-part examination in which Football Outsiders identifies the biggest needs for every NFL team, division by division, going into the 2013 offseason.
The series continues Wednesday with Outsiders' look at the NFC East.
Dallas Cowboys: Safety
It was a bit surprising to see defensive coordinator Rob Ryan get the boot with one year still remaining on his contract. Dallas' defense faltered down the stretch -- the Cowboys finished the year ranked 23rd in defensive DVOA but 30th in weighted DVOA -- but it's hard to see how Ryan could have done much better with the collection of spare parts he was forced to utilize over the final month of the season. (DVOA is Football Outsiders' defense-adjusted value over average metric, explained here.)
Ryan had to do without five defensive starters, and players such as DeMarcus Ware and Gerald Sensabaugh gutted through injuries to stay in the lineup and were unable to perform at their best. But Jerry Jones wanted to hold someone accountable, and so it's out with Ryan and in with legendary defensive coach Monte Kiffin, who is returning to the NFL after a stint at Southern California and bringing a modified version of his old Tampa 2 defense with him. Does Kiffin have the right personnel to run his system? Players such as Bruce Carter and Sean Lee look like great scheme fits, and Ware can play in any defense. On the other hand, Kiffin may run into problems implementing his defense with what he has to work with in the secondary.