We didn’t know how the Dallas Cowboys defense was going to generate pressure this year. With DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons on staff, we knew they would get pressure, we just didn’t know exactly how Dan Quinn would deploy said pressure.
For as nonchalant as the Cowboys were being toward the linebacker position this offseason, it almost seemed like they were banking on Parsons to be a fulltime player at the second level. Leighton Vander Esch and Jabril Cox weren’t exactly shinning examples of health and reliability, after all.
As such it was reasonable to conclude Dallas would be blitzing more often since that’s what it would take to utilize Parsons to his fullest.
When Dallas casually added Anthony Barr to the roster deep into the summer, it seemed like it meant more leeway with Parsons (to play more DE), but we honestly weren’t sure. If they wanted to move Parsons around, surly they would have insulated the LB position earlier in process, right?
The Dallas Cowboys have led the NFL in stunts up front rather and haven’t needed to blitz to generate pressure.
Dating back to the Rod Marinelli days, stunts were a defining trait of the Dallas Cowboys defense. Twisting and pulling linemen in order to confuse and exploit offensive blocking schemes was an effective way to scheme in pressure without pulling resources from coverage
Coverage is king these days. It’s why teams are going to more coverage-heavy looks on early downs and begging offenses to run into light boxes. Runs, even into light boxes, are less dangerous than passes, more often than not. So defenses have been daring teams to run and protecting themselves from the big play and the Dallas Cowboys are no different.
Stunting comes at a cost and that cost is susceptibility to running plays. With players running games, holes are organically created. There’s not always enough time for players to fill their run fits and big gains are inevitably given up.
Even still, last week Joe Mixon’s -4.5 EPA was the lowest individual total in the entire game. Daring him to run and deploying a league-leading number of stunts clearly didn’t hurt Dallas.
Against the Giants it could be different. Saquon Barkley is sixth in the NFL in rushing yards over expected (RYOE) and his 6.27 yards/carry average is quantifiably bonkers. The New York Giants offensive line is vulnerable so the Cowboys may opt to loosen their grip on “stunting champions” for the week, and play NY a little more heads up.
One thing is clear, once again the Dallas Cowboys found out how to generate pressure without sending extra players on the blitz. It’s something that plays to Micah Parsons’ strengths and something we can expect to continue throughout the season.