The Dallas Cowboys secondary has been struggling as of late. They have been among the NFL’s worst in explosive plays per game and have been routinely making back-up quarterbacks look like superstars.
Luckily for the Cowboys, help appears to be on the way
Johnathan Hankins and Leighton Vander Esch may indirectly help the Dallas Cowboys secondary in the postseason.
Injuries often result in a trickledown effect across a roster. When Tyler Biadasz was hurt two weeks ago, the entire left side of the offensive line moved positions. When Anthony Brown was hurt over a month ago, it became a revolving door in the secondary.
And when NT Johnathan Hankins and LB Leighton Vander Esch fell to injury, the entire team felt the absence. Without the two best run stoppers on the team (Hankins to occupy blockers, LVE to make tackles) the Dallas Cowboys were vulnerable against the run.
Dan Quinn couldn’t afford to drop extra players into coverage because he needed to handle the enormous absences up front. This resulted in leaving his CB2 on an island more than most would consider advisable.
With both players returning in the Wild Card matchup against the Bucs, Quinn can afford to give that troublesome CB2 position some help in the secondary.
After missing the last four games to a peck injury, Hankins is ready to go. The stoutest DT on the roster isn’t an every-down player, but he’s a key part and the top run-stopping weapon the Cowboys have.
Leighton Vander Esch is the best all-around off-ball linebacker on the roster. The veteran is a leader on the defense and an asset against the run and against the pass. He’s one of the best stoppers in the league if you can disrupt the play in front of him – which is why both players returning together is so critical.
With both players back, Quinn can focus on quality up front and quantity back in the secondary. He can drop extra players into coverage (or use more nickel and dime packages) to assist the problematic CB2 spot. It’s a trickledown effect that should help the Cowboys against the pass.
With higher quality play up front, the Cowboys don’t have to dedicate extra resources to stopping the run and can focus on their real weakness, the secondary.