Cowboys: Defense To Get Major Boost Against Patriots


The Dallas Cowboys defense, as expected, has looked terrible during the last two losses, but that side of the ball will get a big boost from two critical players.

In a 2015 regular season that’s taking on more of an extended preseason feel due to numerous critical injuries, the Dallas Cowboys might start to turn the corner on Sunday against the New England Patriots.

This does not mean that the Cowboys will win the game necessarily.

It does mean that a defensive front almost completely void of playmakers will more than welcome the site of defensive end Greg Hardy and middle linebacker Rolando McClain.

These two suspended players could easily join outside linebacker Sean Lee as the best players in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s ailing defense.

Lost amid back-to-back losses against the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints is the fact that the Dallas defense hasn’t exactly been a total failure this season. The unit almost completely shut down the Philadelphia Eagles rushing attack in Week 2 while also holding all but one starting running back under 100 yards.

There is a big blemish on the defensive resume, which came in the form of the previously unheard of Devonte Freeman of the Falcons who had a career day – and then some – against the Cowboys on Week 3.

Estimating that the defense scores a B- against the run at this point, the presence of McClain should help elevate that effort to an A- pretty much right away, provided that Lee can actually stay on the field, of course. McClain’s health is also something to closely monitor, but if he’s on the field the Cowboys are just a different defense.

I expect that the luxury of moving second-year veteran Anthony Hitchens to the outside could be a widely underestimated move coming at this point of the season.

Any improvement in run defense should set up more than a handful of passing situations for Dallas to exploit, but only now that Hardy can finally play football again.

It’s hard to know exactly what to expect out of Hardy, the highly controversial player picked up during the offseason following his release from the Carolina Panthers. His ability to rush from anywhere on the defensive line will finally give Marinelli some creativity with which to confuse opposing quarterbacks prior to the snap.

Further, if you’re wondering, as I am, when we’re supposed to see the fruits of defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford‘s labor, it would seem that now is the time to start watching closely.

To this point in the season, there really hasn’t been anybody that opposing offensive fronts really had to fear where the Cowboys defensive line is concerned. It was important that rookie Randy Gregory was able to contribute what he did in the season opener against the New York Giants, but he’s shelved for the time being.

Now that McClain and Hardy enter the fold, there’s numerous threats to opposing quarterbacks, namely Patriots ‘Deflategate’ star Tom Brady, that blockers have to carefully account for.

Yes, this element has been missing.

Moving ahead, there should be more opportunities for players like Crawford and also second-year defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who just logged his first sack of the season on Week 4 against Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

With Hardy likely commanding double teams sooner than later, the Dallas defense should start to look more like the unit Cowboys Nation witnessed bullying those Eagles in this season’s first road game.

It’s no secret that McClain is the type of linebacker that’s got the athleticism to blitz from time to time. With Hitchens leading the team in sacks with 1.5 and Lee also holding a single sack this season, it’s probably better that this corps of linebackers stay out of opposing backfields and instead occupy the line of scrimmage more often than not.

That defensive line is where immediate improvement must come where quarterback pressure is concerned.

Hardy was quoted by Jeremy Bergman of with the following regarding how he sees Sunday’s matchup against Brady:

"The same way I did last time I saw him, hopefully on the ground."

Short, sweet and to the point – and also a message.

This is precisely what the Cowboys need on their defensive front. They need some moxie, some attitude and aggression that simply hasn’t been there as of yet. If that creates a new dynamic beginning Week 5, it’s quite possible that this collection of rookies, rejects and renegades could start to look a little bit more like the Cowboys defenses of the early to mid 1990s – a lofty projection at this point, but this defensive unit does have talent.

If Dallas can get everyone healthy, eligible and into some rhythm, the Cowboys might very well be able to win a game or two and maybe steal another before the return of quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant.

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