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Snap Judgments: Cowboys Defensive Snap Counts vs Browns

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With the absence of Sean Lee, Barry Church, Kenyon Coleman, Orie Lemon, Mike Jenkins and Sean Lissemore due to various injuries, it’s worth talking a look at who exactly ended up taking the defensive snaps against the Browns.

Rookie Ben Bass got his first NFL snaps on Sunday.
Rookie Ben Bass got his first NFL snaps on Sunday.
Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

This is the time of year where every fan base gets to take a long, hard look at their favorite team's depth chart. Save for the two teams playing tonight, all teams have now played 10 games, and all teams have lost significant players due to injuries. That's just how the NFL works, and with the multitude of changes brought by the new CBA, there are even concerns that the injuries are accumulating faster than in previous years.

Be that as it may, the Cowboys have also had to deal with a mounting injury toll, especially on defense. Starters Sean Lee, Kenyon Coleman and Barry Church are out for the season. Orie Lemon and Matt Johnson joined them on the IR list. Mike Jenkins and Sean Lissemore sat out the Cleveland game with injuries and Danny McCray missed significant playing time with an injury yesterday as well.

With all those injuries piling up, it’s worth talking a look at who exactly ended up taking the snaps against the Browns. Overall, the defense had 70 snaps, 20 snaps less than the offense.

Defensive Linemen

Jason Hatcher (51 snaps): 6 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 QB hit
Jay Ratliff (49 snaps): 4 tackles, 1 QB Hit
Marcus Spears (26 snaps): 3 tackles
Josh Brent (19 snaps): 1 tackle, 1 pass defended
Tyron Crawford (17 snaps): 2 tackles
Ben Bass (9 snaps): 1 tackle

Observations: The Cowboys were repeatedly gashed for long gains on the ground by the Browns, and it felt like the Cowboys really missed Kenyon Coleman a lot. But at the end of the day, while the Browns did rush for 119 total yards, they only did it at a fairly moderate clip of 3.6 yards a pop.

And their run-stuffing improved as the game wore on. After allowing 82 yards on 19 carries (4.3 YPC) in the first half, the defense held the Browns to 37 yards on 14 carries (2.6 YPC) in the second half.

Marcus Spears started for the injured Coleman, and that in itself is remarkable given that Spears was a healthy scratch just a couple of weeks ago against the Ravens.

Ben Bass got his first taste of the NFL with nine defensive snaps.

Outside Linebackers

Anthony Spencer (69 Snaps): 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 Pass defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovered
DeMarcus Ware (62 snaps): 3 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 QB Hits
Victor Butler (9 snaps): 1 tackle

Observations: Ware left the game briefly after receiving a blow to the head and was administered a concussion test, but only missed eight snaps.

Ware's half sack brought his season total to 10, the seventh consecutive season Ware has recorded 10 or more sacks. Those seven 10-plus sack seasons are tied for the third-most in league history with Lawrence Taylor and Bruce Smith and are only behind John Randle (8) and Reggie White (9). Note that all four of those players are in the Hall Of Fame.

Spencer once more had a very productive afternoon, notching a stat in almost every recorded category apart from a QB hit and an interception. Victor Butler saw limited action in limited playing time subbing for Ware.

Rookie OLB Kyle Wilber didn't get any snaps on defense but had 13 special teams snaps.

Inside Linebackers

Bruce Carter (70 snaps): 5 tackles (1 TFL)
Dan Connor (34 snaps): 4 tackles
Ernie Sims (23 snaps): 2 tackles
Alex Albright (11 snaps): No defensive stats recorded

Observations: Rob Ryan announced on Friday that he'd have a rotation at linebacker next to Bruce Carter and he held word as three players took turns next to Carter.

Sean Lee likely would have also taken 70 snaps had he been healthy. It's hard to say how much the Cowboys are missing Lee, but so far the players and coaches have done a remarkable job in in making the best out of this patchwork linebackers unit.

Alex Albright was also part of the ILB rotation but saw most of his action on special teams, where his 26 snaps once again led all Cowboys players.


Brandon Carr (69 snaps): 5 tackles, 1 pass defended
Morris Claiborne (68 snaps): 3 tackles
Orlando Scandrick (29 snaps): 3 tackles

Observations: The Cowboys made do with just three corners yesterday. The corner play helped limit the Browns to just 210 passing yards, but the two TDs allowed by the secondary also meant that the Cowboys allowed a 93.8 passer rating.

For the season, the Cowboys have allowed 90.7 passer rating, ranked 18th in the league. Just for perspective, that's worse than last season's 88.4. The Cowboys can't continue giving up these types of numbers and expect to get anywhere this season.


Gerald Sensabaugh (70 snaps): 4 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Danny McCray (41 snaps): 6 tackles
Charlie Peprah (25 snaps): 1 tackle
Eric Frampton (17 snaps): 1 tackle

Observations: Sensabaugh earns high grades for his perfectly executed tackle on Trent Richardson in the fourth quarter. The tackle stopped Richardson (it actually threw him back) a yard shy of the first-down marker on 3rd-and-5 and also caused Richardson to briefly lose control of the ball.

McCray was injured on the second Browns play of the game and missed a significant number of snaps as a result. Peprah and Frampton took turns filling in for McCray. It is worth noting that while Sensabaugh (12), McCray (17) and Frampton (22) all saw significant special teams snap, Peprah is listed with 0 special teams snaps. That seems odd.

Overall, despite a slew of injuries on the defense, it's worth noting that of the 770 total defensive snaps accumulated by 11 players over 70 plays, only 74 were taken by players not on the season-opening 53-man roster (Peprah, Frampton, Sims, Bass).