Cowboys: How Dominant Has The Defense Been?

October 8, 2022
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The Dallas Cowboys have been quite the story this year with starting quarterback Dak Prescott going down with a thumb injury in week one to going 3-0 with Cooper Rush at the helm. The mainstream media isn’t focusing on how dominant the defense has been for this team. Let’s shine some spotlight on how well they’ve been playing.

It isn’t a stretch to say that this Cowboys defense has been carrying the team so far. The offense has come up strong when they absolutely need to. But when comparing both sides of the ball, the defense has been more consistent throughout the past four weeks. 

The stars of the defense are shining very bright thus far. Led by Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, and Demarcus Lawrence. Every level of the defense has been good from the defensive line, to linebackers, and cornerbacks.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

The Cowboys’ defense has been exceptional while defending the pass. They rank sixth in the league for the least amount of passing yards allowed and touchdowns allowed. Through the first four games, the Cowboys have only had 684 yards and three touchdowns passed on them. Offenses have had a hard time passing downfield against this defense as they rank first in the league with 4.8 yards per pass attempt.

The Cowboys’ defense has been the backbone of the team thus far. To put into perspective how well the defense is playing, here is a chart of the NFL ranked by ANY/A Value. This stat is focused on the passing yards adjusted, the higher the number, the better. The NFL is a passing league, so the defense will have to keep this hot start going if they want to make a playoff run this year. 

ANY/A – adjusted net yards per passing attempt: (pass yards + 20*(pass TD) – 45*(interceptions thrown) – sack yards)/(passing attempts + sacks)

The rushing defense has been a different story. The defense has allowed 550 rushing yards. This ranks as the sixth worst in the league. They are also allowing five yards per carry which is tied for the eighth-worst at the moment. Two opposing running backs have had good games against this defense with Leonard Fournette having 127 yards and Saquon Barkley having 81 yards and one touchdown. 

The bright spot is that the defense is not letting up on the touchdown department since they have only allowed one, which was a long Saquon Barkley 36-yard run. The opposition’s red zone rushing attacks have not been effective versus the Cowboys. Dallas is well-rounded where the rushing defense isn’t killing them, but it will need to improve once they face tougher running teams such as the Eagles, Bears, and Packers

The Cowboys are getting to the quarterback though. They are currently second in the NFL with 15 sacks, only behind the Philadelphia Eagles with 16 sacks. The pass rush has been relentless with Micah Parsons leading the team with four sacks. Followed by Demarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong tied with three sacks a piece. This is a staple of the defense and should continue to be great, not only for this season but for years to come.

Arguably the flashiest plays from a defense have come back to Earth a little though. The interceptions have come down compared to last season but that is expected since it is hard to repeat a high turnover rate year after year. Pick machine Trevon Diggs only has two so far. It will be hard to repeat his big 2021 season with 11 interceptions, just because quarterbacks aren’t testing him as much so far. Impressively, the team has more interceptions this year with four compared to three passing touchdowns allowed.

Two Tough Tests On The Road

The Cowboys had two great opponents in the first two weeks vs Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week one. Then in week two against Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals. Week three and week four got a little easier as most people would put it as they faced the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders respectively. 

Los Angeles Rams

Now the Cowboys have to travel to So-Fi stadium to face the defending Super Bowl champs. The Los Angels Rams connection between Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp remains one of the top threats in the league. Kupp continues to shred defenses as he leads the league with 42 receptions and is fifth in receiving yards with 402 yards. The passing offense is the strength of this team as the rushing aspect of the ball hasn’t been able to get off the ground this year with Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson. 

Although the Rams haven’t looked as crisp as last year, it will still be a big benchmark test to see where the ‘boys stand compared to an NFC contender. The Rams will no doubt be looking to get back on track at home after having an embarrassing performance in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers

Philadelphia Eagles

The road trip continues after LA as the Cowboys have to fly to the east coast to get a warm welcome from those infamous Philadelphia Eagles fans. The Eagles are a top team in the NFL as they’re currently the only undefeated team standing at 4-0. Jalen Hurts has the offense humming with AJ Brown, Devonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert doing a lot of damage through the air. 

The rushing game for the Eagles has been even better than the passing game. The Eagles are leading the league in rushing attempts and rushing touchdowns. They have also run the fifth most rushing yards this season with 661 yards. This will be a strength vs weakness game for the Cowboys since their rushing defense isn’t too hot through four weeks. The week six matchup between these division foes will be a massively important one as the winner will have an inside track on first place in the NFC East. 

Overview

The Cowboys’ defense is built to succeed with their depth at every position. Outside of needing to improve on the rushing defense, the team has been dominant. The big stars on this team are holding down the fort while their starting quarterback continues to rehab his thumb injury. But so far, no Dak has been no problem. Now visiting two tough opponents in the next two weeks will put the defense to the test. Expect them to come up strong and make life hard for Matthew Stafford and Jalen Hurts.