The Dallas Cowboys defensive foundation is set for a successful 2021 season.
The 2020 Dallas Cowboys had one of their most disappointing seasons in franchise history. From starting out 2-7, to combating injuries, the Cowboys dealt with so much adversity.
Remember there were no mini camps, no preseason games, and no real preparation, just a quick-fix training camp that hoped for the best. Combine a new coaching staff to the equation, and the Cowboys were destined to have a bad season.
But despite all of the turmoil, the Dallas Cowboys came alive towards the end of the season and posted a three-game winning streak. The offense regained its offensive fire power, but it was the defense that turned the corner and gave Cowboys Nation some hope.
And because the most maligned unit fought back and didn’t give up, there are plenty of positives for the Cowboys’ defense to look forward to in 2021.
The Young Guns
The Cowboys defense started the season giving up over 30 plus points a game and couldn’t stop opposing offenses even if they knew what play was coming. Heck, the defense remained one of the worst in the league, but it did get better in one important category: turnovers
Dallas’ defense started forcing turnovers in its last four games where it recorded 12, leading the league during that span. And it was Dallas’ “Young Guns” who stepped up their game and gave everyone hope for the future. When I say “young guns”, I’m referring to defensive backs Trevon Diggs, Donovan Wilson, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, along with an up and comer like Reggie Robinson II.
In Dallas’ last four games, the secondary intercepted five passes and was instrumental in Dallas fighting for a playoff berth. The aforementioned defensive backs showcased their ability to make plays, cover opposing teams best receivers, and most importantly, intercept the ball in crunch time.
Robinson II didn’t have any interceptions, but the potential is there and that’s a much needed asset for a secondary that is on the rise. Because Dallas’ secondary is improving, it will only help this next unit of “Young Guns”, the defensive line.
Neville Gallimore, Dorance Armstrong Jr, Bradlee Anae, Trysten Hill, Randy Gregory, and DeMarcus Lawrence are the cornerstones of the defensive line. Not only are they all under the age of 30, but the talent is there and they will only get better. Trust me on that.
Playing in only 10 ten games because of a silly suspension, Gregory’s impact in 2020 was for real. Gregory tallied 3.5 sacks, 15 quarterback pressures, and 21 tackles. And Gregory flies across the field chasing down, not only quarterbacks, but elusive running backs, too.
Gregory’s 15 quarterback pressures speaks volumes about his impact and are just as important if not more than sacks. Pressuring a quarterback moves him out of the pocket, off his spot, throws off his rhythm and forces him to throw errant passes that leads to interceptions. I don’t care if the quarterback is Patrick Mahomes or the Grinch from Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers), any quarterback under constant pressure is going to be less effective and make mistakes, regardless of how great they are.
Gregory’s effectiveness benefits fellow edge rusher D-Law, who had a fantastic season, even if it doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. D-Law tallied 6.5 sacks, 26 quarterback pressures, and 58 combined tackles. Watch the film on D-Law and you will see that he never takes plays off and plays as if his life depends on it.
D-Law started the season as Dallas’ best pass rusher with his only help coming from Aldon Smith, who hadn’t played in five seasons. And to be clear, Smith contributed early on and often, ending the season with five sacks, 20 quarterback pressures, and 58 combined tackles.
I’m not sure if Smith will return next season, but if he does/doesn’t, Dallas’ defensive line will have the depth and production from Gallimore, Armstrong Jr, Hill and Anae. With possibly a new defensive coordinator and the experience of a turbulent season behind them, this unit will only improve.
If Gerald McCoy is re-signed again, then Dallas will have a six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle to go with the rest of the “Young Guns”. Plus, expect Dallas’ outstanding Vice President of Player Personnel, Will McClay, to find talented defensive players to upgrade and improve the defense.
After having one of the worst defenses in franchise history, at least Jerry Jones can go to sleep at night knowing there are a lot of positives on the defensive front to look forward to in 2021.