Dallas Cowboys Defense: Identifying weakness and assigning blame

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys are a historically bad defense here in 2020 ,with a lot of things wrong and very little right.

If you compare the average NFL defense to the Dallas Cowboys’ defense, you’ll notice quite quickly there’s a lot wrong with and very little right in Dallas. Before we get into what is wrong, let’s look at what is going right, it is a short list, but it can’t all be negative. Well, it can, but let’s go for some positives first.

For all the negatives on defense there are a few things we can actually be okay with. First, Joe Thomas is looking pretty good. For a depth player, he is playing the best of all the linebackers on this team. The same can be said for Aldon Smith on the defensive line and Xavier Woods at safety is playing well enough that if he had any help next to him, he would look really good. Trevon Diggs even looks like he will be good with a year or two of development.

That’s the list. There have been a moment here and there from a few guys, but overall this defense has really not been good. It starts with Mike Nolan. Nolan has been out of the coordinator game for a while and his last stint in as DC was with the Falcons and they were a bottom 5 team… three years in a row…and the last year they were dead last with Nolan.

Nolan hired Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, so the odds of him leaving anytime soon could be slim, but looking at his past, Nolan is an issue.

However, Nolan’s scheme doesn’t cause players to miss tackles, be consistently out of position, fall for fakes, and fail with pass rush moves. No, that all falls on the players themselves, even if coaching is a part of all of that. It also doesn’t cause face mask calls or late hits. While we should certainly point at Nolan, the players shoulder blame as well.

The Cowboys decided to let Byron Jones walk and refused to replace him with anyone but a rookie in Diggs. They instead banked on Chidobe Awuzie (injured), Anthony Brown (injured), Jourdan Lewis (not that good), and Daryl Worley (also not that good).

They also refused to address the safety position and thought bargain bin shopping would again solve their problems. Sure, the injuries hurt, but this secondary as a whole is missing a lot of talent. There is no other way to say it the way they have looked the first four games.

At linebacker, the Cowboys rode with Sean Lee (injured again), Leighton Vander Esch (still injured/injured again), and Jaylon Smith. Smith has not played well since his he signed his contract because teams have learned he struggles in space and has trouble turning quickly. They are exposing him. As mentioned before, Joe Thomas has been the lone bright spot at linebacker.

On the defensive line the Cowboys did get Aldon Smith and he looks solid, but outside of him your best defensive lineman is a crap shoot. As a whole this defensive line has not gotten consistent pressure and age appears to be creeping up on them. They have also been washed out on the run and are missing tackles. Not a lot to be excited about.

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So I suppose people will ask what the Cowboys can do. Well, there isn’t a ton they can do right now. They have to wait for people to get healthy and get back to the basics of tackling, situational football, hand usage, etc. Some will want Snacks, but his 20% missed tackle rate last year is a little worrisome. Earl Thomas has some serious off-field issues and he may hurt the locker room more than help on the field. If we are being honest, one or two guys is not vastly improving this defense.

Dallas Cowboys 40-burger defense: Simplify or stay the course?. dark. Next

Until the Cowboys get Awuzie, Gregory, Vander Esch, and Brown back, this will have to be a work in progress. Nolan has to simplify the defense a little or find ways to get guys into better position. It is a hard spot to be in, but this defense needs to restart itself. I am not sure it can, but at this point it can’t get much worse. Sign guys, look for trades, something, anything. Because while it may not be a vast improvement, it gives the appearance they care and recognize this defense is not good.

  • Published on 10/06/2020 at 11:30 AM
  • Last updated at 10/06/2020 at 12:18 PM