Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle Analysis: It’s worse than you think

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys current defensive tackle situation is far worse than many realize…

Answer quickly: What is the worst position group on the Dallas Cowboys this season? Cornerback? Safety? Offensive tackle? Linebacker? Guard? A case can be made for all of these position groups are indeed the worst on the team (and we’ll no doubt be diving into this over the next 10 months).

No matter what group came to mind first, I think we can all agree defensive tackle is at, or near, the tip-top of that undistinguished list of terrible position groups. But how bad are they exactly and is there any hope in sight? That’s something we’ll touch on today in our midseason position group analysis.

The Dallas Cowboys Plan

It’s safe to say the initial plan at DT did not go as expected. Dallas intended to have the veterans Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe as the front line starters. Behind them guys like Trysten Hill, Neville Gallimore, and Antwaun Woods were expected to rotate in. Two big guys and three explosive guys seemed like a good cocktail for a DT front expected to shift between odd and even man fronts.

But the Dallas Cowboys lost their starting 3-tech in Practice No. 1 when McCoy tore his quad. Trysten Hill, who took his place, offered a touch of pass rush ability but was terrible against the run. That issue would be tolerable as long as Poe and Woods could handle business at 1-tech.

Sadly, they famously couldn’t/can’t, and the landslide of issues on the interior defensive line commenced.

How bad are they?

The Dallas Cowboys interior defensive line offers next to nothing in both pass-rush and run-stopping. Between Poe (just released), Woods, Hill, Gallimore, Justin Hamilton, and Tyrone Crawford the Dallas Cowboys have a combined 1 sack from their interior front. Their pressure rate is at the bottom of the NFL and with the loss of Hill – it’s only getting worse.

It’s not like opponents are keying in on these players either. DeMarcus Lawrence’s sack numbers may not be jumping out at you, but he’s in the top-4 in the NFL in pass-rush win-rate and he’s Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked edge player this season. Opposite him, Aldon Smith is doing good things as well, leading the group in sacks and commanding his own attention from the right edge. All of this success on the outside should open opportunities inside. The Dallas Cowboys DTs just aren’t good enough to take advantage.

Run defense is equally as horrendous. At an average of 178.3 rushing yards per game, the Dallas Cowboys are worst in the league this season (up from 103.5 last season). Football Outsiders has them as the second worst in adjusted line yards at 5.04 per attempt and with just a 10% run stuff percentage, Dallas is dead-last in run-stuffing.

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Individually, PFF doesn’t have a single player on the Cowboys rated above 91st in the NFL. That means 90 other NFL DTs rated better than anyone on the Dallas Cowboys. Watch the tape and you’ll see why. To quantify the damage, the Dallas Cowboys are giving up .094 EPA per play on the ground this season. That’s second worst in the NFL. And in case you’re wondering…everything is trending in the wrong direction too.

Does this mean the Dallas Cowboys need to pull of trade for a high-ceiling DT prospect? Possibly. Does it mean they need to use an early pick in the 2021 Draft at DT? Probably. Does it mean none of these fellas have a future in Dallas? No, they still may.

Related Story. Inside the Numbers of the Dallas Cowboys Defense. light

Next. Cowboys: Even in a lost season, this DT is worth trading for. dark

We’ll get to the “next steps” down the road as we assess free agency and the draft, but for now the main takeaway is the Dallas Cowboys interior D-line is about as bad as there is in this league and hopes of that changing at any point this season are probably misguided. Is 2020 over yet?

  • Published on 10/29/2020 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 10/29/2020 at 10:03 AM