The Cowboys pass-rush is already better than you think

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 22: Robert Quinn #58 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts during play against the Miami Dolphins at AT&T Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 22: Robert Quinn #58 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts during play against the Miami Dolphins at AT&T Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys bolstered their pass rush when they traded for Michael Bennett this past week but the reality is it was already pretty darn good.

We expected more of the Dallas Cowboys pass-rush this season, didn’t we? With 17 team sacks through the first seven weeks of the 2019 NFL season, they are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans for 17th in the NFL.

For a unit that boasts DeMarcus Lawrence, Robert Quinn, and a pretty formidable supporting cast, finishing anywhere outside of the top-10 seems like a failure, by most fans’ standards. But even though they are on pace for no more than 39 (last season’s total), they are really having a better pass-rushing season than the numbers indicate.

Sometime (many times, often times) statistics are misleading. Completion percentage, passer rating, rushing totals, etc… all lack certain qualitative context that’s needed to make trustworthy conclusions. Sacks totals can be one of those misleading stats. Hurries, tackles for loss, QB hits, and time allowed in the pocket should also be considered when judging the effectiveness of the pass rush.

Individuals like Maliek Collins, Quinn and Lawrence all show up better once you take these other stats into consideration. In fact, just last week Pro Football Focus called Quinn and Collins two of the NFL’s top pass-rushing producers of the season.

Sure, we knew Quinn was worthy given his team-high sack total of six, but Collins comes somewhat as a surprise. A deeper dive into his performance shows he’s penetrating the backfield consistently and he’s only two tackles for loss shy of tying his career best – and he still has nine games left to play!

Perhaps most important of all in this pass-rushing narrative is HOW the Dallas Cowboys are getting it done.

According to Next Gen Stats, both of the Dallas Cowboys edge rushers (Tank and Quinn) are seeing some of the most double-teams in the NFL (between 27 and 29 percent of the time). Yet, they are winning at an equally high rate (between 24 and 33 percent of the time).

What does this mean?

It means the Dallas Cowboys are forcing opponents to keep extra players in to protect the passer, and the opponents are still getting beat. Better yet, it’s allowing Dallas to mount an effective pass-rush without dedicating too many extra players in the blitz. That means Dallas gets to keep extra players in coverage while opponents are keeping extra players in protection.

That right there tells a much better story than what those misleading team sack totals are saying, don’t you think?

This is an especially big deal considering most passers IMPROVE when they’re blitzed. The reason being, more blitzers mean less traffic in the secondary and since not all blitzes actually lead to pressure, passers often get easy completions downfield.

That’s why Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard are often hesitant to blitz – they know the numbers.

Another important thing to keep in mind is something we learned this past offseason. Pro Football Focus did a nifty little study on whether dominant pass-rushes or dominant coverage is most associated with winning. Turns out, having a great pass-rush didn’t have nearly the impact great coverage did in winning. So it’s significant that the Dallas Cowboys are able to mount an effective pass-rush while still maintaining a strong secondary. They’re not robbing from Peter to pay Paul, so to speak.

For more on that check out, Are the Dallas Cowboys undervaluing Byron Jones and the secondary?

Another item we have to keep in mind is DeMarcus Lawrence is a notoriously slow starter. He’s starting the season like he usually does and it’s only a matter of time before he elevates to that elite level we all know and love.

Robert Quinn is another player who’s better than the numbers are currently indicating (hard to believe, considering his sack total). But remember, Quinn was suspended the first two games of the season, so his six sacks are over just five games. That means he’s averaging 1.2 per game and is on pace for a 16.8 sack season!

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You may have also heard the Dallas Cowboys just added Michael Bennett a few days ago. Bennett probably isn’t going to hit double-digit totals like Quinn or Tank will, but just last year he had a respectable 9 sacks on the season. If he can come in and produce 5+ sacks for the Cowboys down the stretch, we could see these team totals explode.

You see, things are actually much better than just pure sack totals indicate. The Dallas Cowboys are actually pretty darn good at rushing the passer. Can they improve? For sure. That futile effort against the Jets comes to mind as a fairly significant failure from the pass-rushers. But as a whole, the guys up front have been getting it done.

Next. Are the Cowboys wasting Zeke?. dark

So even though the Dallas Cowboys are only on pace for roughly 39 sacks for the season – the same total they achieved last season – they’re actually doing better than the pure totals indicate. They have two of the best players in the NFL at beating double-teams and they getting production without overusing the blitz.

  • Published on 10/27/2019 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 10/27/2019 at 07:22 AM