There is a lot of focus on the Dallas Cowboys’ offense, but the defense has a lot of questions and concerns that need to be addressed.
There was a lot of knee-jerk reactions following the Dallas Cowboys loss, one of the biggest was the offense was to blame for the loss. While the offense did have some issues, they had large stretches that looked very good. Had it not been for a missed field goal, a rookie mistake of not running to the sticks, and a phantom offensive pass interference call, the offense would have put up around thirty points. The real concern was the defense getting manhandled for most of the game.
One of the first comments I made about the game during the first drive was how slow the defense looked. As the game wore on, it looked slow for much of the game. Jaylon Smith‘s liabilities were capitalized on, and his over-pursuit and struggle in change of direction were a huge issue for the defense. However, it was not all on Smith as the entire defense struggled.
First, credit to the Rams for a great game-plan. The Rams knew to beat the Cowboys and to limit mistakes from Jared Goff, short crossing patterns, wheel routes, and getting the ball out quickly would all be the Achilles heel for this defense. As soon as Goff was sitting in the pocket longer, the defense performed better, but it was still a concern.
The revamped defensive line, got manhandled for most of the game. What a lot of people thought would be guys who could stop the run, the first game was the exact opposite. The line got washed out and the linebackers over-pursued and allowed cut back lanes. Combine that with the Rams getting the ball out before consistent pressure could be established and the line looked old, slow, and outmatched.
The secondary at times looked lost and consistently trailing the receivers. While there were some hard hits, a surprise interception from Chidobe Awuzie, and Trevon Diggs had some strong moments, as a whole the secondary was a problem as well. Some of it was the playcalling/scheme, and some of it was just great design by the Rams.
The Cowboys need to work on their defense, and quickly. To start they really need to use more press cover at corner. This should help keep some of the quick passes down and give the defensive line an extra second or two. Playing off as often as they did played right into the Rams hands.
On the defensive line, they need to stay in gap discipline and not be trying to get up field on every play. That was one mistake from the previous regime that hurt this team. With Jaylon at linebacker, his best work is done coming downhill, and not being asked to change directions to cover the backside. Using him to blitz more might also help, although would leave an empty space in coverage in the middle if the field.
There is a lot of work for the defense going forward. Getting Brandon Carr in at safety should help and getting the linebackers worked out will go a long way to starting to fix this defense. They could sign some players, but the free agent market is slightly thin at all positions. Scheme will have to be adjusted, but the Cowboys did make some in-game adjustments so there is some hope.
Let’s hope it was the lack of a preseason and full training camp that caused game one to look the way it did. This defense needs work and we will see how they adjust. No matter what, the Cowboys must do better in game two.