The weakest safeties group? The Buccaneers.
The weakest cornerbacks? The Patriots.
The weakest linebacker group? The Giants.
The weakest 3-4 defensive line? The Bears.
The weakest 4-3 defensive line? The Raiders.
At least that’s how Chris Wesseling at NFL.com sees it, who put together a list of the weakest position groups on defense in the NFL.
Scrolling through his defensive lowlights, I was struck by how the Cowboys weren’t mentioned even once in this parade of destitution. After all, hadn’t we just informed by Peter King about the sorry state of the Cowboys defense?
I keep reading how many great pieces the Cowboys have added to their defense. I don’t see it.
Hadn't Pete Prisco of CBS Sports just published his list of top 100 NFL players and listed six Cowboys offensive players, but not a single defensive player?
And didn't Will Brinson, also of CBS Sports just informed us that the Cowboys will win no more than nine games this year, offhandedly throwing in "questionable moral moves" in the process?
And yet, the NFL.com list doesn't have a single Cowboys defensive unit listed as the weakest position in the league. And it gets even better. Among the many teams receiving a (dis-)honorable mention for fielding some of the weakest NFL units, the Cowboys don't show up once.
Of course, while all of that may be news to many of the national observers who cherish their well-used memes, some of the folks who follow the Cowboys a little more closely understand that the 2015 Cowboys defense may bear only a superficial similarity to previous defenses. Here's Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News on why he has 'high hopes' for the Cowboys defense.
I think there are very few really weak spots in the front 11 and this means that they should have depth and quality to not be exposed. They had major issues last season and many of those have been replaced with real talent. The idea that Hardy, Lawrence, and Gregory could all be pass rushing down the stretch in 2015 when none of them were here in Sept and October of 2014 is pretty insane. I think they have a great coach bringing it together, too.
Long before the draft and long before free agency delivered some very solid additions to the Cowboys defense, we argued here at Blogging The Boys that the Cowboys defense would be better simply based on health.
The 2014 Cowboys defense had the fifth-highest injury rate in the league with 66.8 Adjusted Games Lost. Of that total, 23.0 AGL were on the defensive line (3rd highest), and 31.7 were at linebacker, the highest value in the league last year.
There's a good chance the Cowboys defense will see a lot less injuries in 2015. This is a good thing.
Unfortunately, if you were counting on the offense to bail out the defense by maintaining its fifth-ranked scoring pace of 29.2 points per game into the new season, regression to the mean has some less favorable news for you: Given that the Cowboys offense was one of the healthiest units in the league last year, we have to expect that they'll see more injuries in 2015, and that might impact their ability to score.
Odds are that in 2015, the Cowboys will need the defense to win some games for them, and Orlando Scandrick for one understands that.
"We’re going to go out here and work every day. We’re going to continue to work on our craft to be a dominant defense, to be able to be the defense that this team can lean on when we need to," Scandrick said. "Our offense ain’t always going to score 40 points and get 500 yards of offense. We just need to be able to be stable and just have guys play hard and just work towards being dominant."
The Cowboys still have work to do on their defense, and still have to answer questions related to the health, availability, and quality of some of their defensive players - as they've had to in every previous season. But in 2015 they won't be answering those questions from the defensive cellar of the league