The Cowboys have a multitude of problems this season. But the NFC East being what it is in 2013, they still stand a pretty good chance of winning it. They won't do that if their defense doesn't improve, and the easiest way for that to happen is to get improved play from the defensive line.
Improved play on defense isn't likely to come from the linebackers. Sean Lee and Justin Durant are out for close to a month and Bruce Carter along with Ernie Sims and whoever plays with him won't be an improvement. The secondary is getting some help back with J.J. Wilcox and possibly Morris Claiborne, so you could see their play get marginally better. They're also talking about playing more man-to-man which might help.
Still, the easiest way for the Cowboys defense to rapidly improve is for the front four to get back to pressuring the quarterback. That starts with the return of what we hope to be a healthy DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher.
Even with all the injuries the Cowboys have suffered along the defensive line, there was a point early in the year when the line was getting regular pressure. That has really fallen off lately. The Cowboys now have 24 sacks on the year which ties them for 21st in the league. Over their last three games they have four sacks, which isn't the kind of pressure they really need to be generating. The stats for sacks and pressures are markedly down in the last three games.
|Avg. Games 1-7||3.0||3.9||13.9|
|Avg. Games 8-10||1.3||4.0||8.7|
George Selvie hasn't been nearly as active recently as he was early in the year, part of that has to do with DeMarcus Ware being absent. Also, Jason Hatcher needs to be fully healthy so he can collapse the middle, leading to a sack for him, or driving the QB into the arms of one of the ends.
Another thing that pressure from the defensive line does is help to create turnovers. Sacks can lead to fumbles from QBs and pressures can lead to poor decision by QBs.
The Cowboys defense is never going to be good this season, but if they can step it up just a notch in pressuring the QB, they will give the offense a little more room for error.