Why The Dallas Cowboys’ Defense Needs Greg Hardy


Getting back to the NFC Divisional round is no sure thing for the Dallas Cowboys. They need to improve on defense, and Greg Hardy may just be that needed improvement.

Love it or hate it, Greg Hardy is a Dallas Cowboy. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how BIG of a deal, signing a player of Greg Hardy’s caliber, is for this Dallas Cowboys’ defense. Forget for a moment (if you can) the terrible off-the-field baggage Greg Hardy carries. We’ve talked about that before and we’re sure to talk about it again. Instead, let’s look at Rod Marinelli’s defense and what a player like Greg Hardy can do for it.

As everyone knows, Rod Marinelli often runs a variation of the famed, Tampa 2 defense. His Tampa 2, together with a traditional Cover 2, and Single High Safety, relies heavily on pressure generated by the defensive line. Rod Marinelli will blitz from time to time, but blitzing notoriously leaves fewer players in coverage, and that is something Marinelli prefers to avoid. Pressure from the front four is key, which makes defensive end a very premium position on this defense.

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Last year notwithstanding, Greg Hardy has established himself as one of the most dominant defensive ends in the NFL. In 2013 Greg Hardy collected a career high 15 sacks Pro Football Focus had him ranked as the second best 4-3 DE in the NFL

In 2012, the 24 year old pass rusher out of Ol’ Miss collected 11 sacks, 12 QB hits, and 34 hurries. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the #6 overall 4-3 DE. He graded out positively in both pass-rushing and run stopping, making him a dominant every-down DE playing 769 snaps in 15 games.

In 2013 Greg Hardy increased his already impressive career-high by totaling 15 sacks, 25 QB hits, and 44 hurries. PFF ranked him the #2 4-3 DE in the NFL that year as he continued his trend of being a dominant pass-rusher and run-stopper. After sitting out 15 games of the 2014 season for reasons alluded to above, the now-26 year old looks to reclaim his dominant status with the Dallas Cowboys.

For more on Greg Hardy’s missing season read: The Devil is in the Details

Greg Hardy is just entering his physical prime at age 26 (27 by season’s start). He has shown the ability to post consecutive double-digit sack seasons without neglecting the running game (which often times pass-rushing DEs do). He collects more penalties than you’d like to see, but with the level of energy he uses every snap, a few “aggressive” penalties are expected.

He’s not the sharp-lean edge rusher that DeMarcus Ware was or DeMarcus Lawrence appears to be, but rather a pretty amazing mix of speed and strength. Instead of circling in from behind the QB, Hardy will often cut on an angle and go straight at his target.

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Perhaps the most impressive item in Hardy’s arsenal is his active hands. It’s impossible for me to not see Reggie White in his game, as he’s constantly jockeying for hand position and making the opposition look foolish in the process.

His diverse range of pass-rushing skills strikes fear in opposing tackles who are unsure what to expect snap to snap. Add in Hardy’s oft-used stutter step, and many linemen move themselves out of position before Hardy even makes contact.

A player with the rare skills of Hardy would fit on any NFL team, but on team which places extra value in front four pressure players, he’s invaluable.

Next: Why Darren McFadden is a Great Pickup

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