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Snap Counts For The Cowboys Defense: Sean Lee, Morris Claiborne Leading The Pack

Who played, and who produced, for the Dallas Cowboys offense? In our weekly look at the snap counts, we’ll evaluate whether Dallas is using it’s players well, and how well each of them is producing.

Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys defense is where snap counts tend to be the most interesting, because defense tends to use more substitutions and rotations than you have on offense. We’re going to break it down by position group to see what’s going on. This is for week three, a Dallas 24-17 road win over the 49ers.


The Defensive Line

Tyrone Crawford continued at left defensive end, and his sack in the second quarter was the turning point in the game. Terrell McClain, Maliek Collins, and Jack Crawford were the other starters. Here are the counts (out of 53 snaps, 12 fewer than the Chicago game):

  • Maliek Collins, 44 snaps
  • Tyrone Crawford, 43
  • Terrell McClain, 39
  • Jack Crawford, 35
  • Cedric Thornton, 18
  • Benson Mayowa, 16
  • David Irving, 8
  • Ryan Davis, 8

How do these compare to last week (which had 65 snaps)? The starting four had about the same number of snaps as last week. Cedric Thornton increased five snaps, while Benson Mayowa dropped 12 snaps. David Irving dropped even more, from 22 to 8. Ryan Davis saw the same number of snaps as last week.

One sack was credited to the line, but as mentioned above, it was the turning point in the game. Like last week, Tyrone Crawford had two tackles for loss and Collins had one.

With DeMarcus Lawrence due back next week, who will shift where? Tyrone Crawford seems to make the biggest impact outside, so I would expect Jack Crawford to give way, and perhaps move inside where he doesn’t have to combat left tackles. The other ends on the roster - Mayowa, Irving, and Davis - haven’t done much of anything.

The Linebackers

This week, Sean Lee still played 100%, but Anthony Hitchens jumped up to 68% for second place. Justin Durant had the rest of the snaps. Damien Wilson and Andrew Gachkar did not appear, and Kyle Wilber played 3 snaps, some of which may have been as a pass rusher.

  • Sean Lee, 53 snaps (100%)
  • Anthony Hitchens, 36
  • Justin Durant, 15
  • Kyle Wilber, 3

Sean Lee remains the best player in the Cowboys front seven. He had a tackle for loss and led the team with nine solo tackles. Early on, he seemed to spy Blaine Gabbert to prevent him from gaining ground on QB runs. No one else did much, though Hitchens must have elevated his play enough to more than double Durant’s snaps when they were even the week before. He ended up fourth with five solo tackles. This group still needs Mark Nzeocha back. And wouldn’t a healthy and motivated Rolando McClain look nice?

The Secondary

This is definitely the best part of the Dallas defense. Who knows how good they might be with a stronger front seven. Snaps?

  • Brandon Carr, 53 snaps
  • Mo Claiborne, 53
  • Anthony Brown, 50
  • Barry Church, 49
  • Byron Jones, 41
  • JJ Wilcox, ??

Orlando Scandrick was out again, so Anthony Brown took his place. He did a great job with two passes defensed. Wilcox is not listed on the snap counts for some unknown reason, but had a key pass defense late in the game that forced a SF punt.

The star of the defense was Mo Claiborne, with his first interception since 2014 and the fourth down stop at the end of the game. He was also third with six solo tackles, and had a tackle for loss and a pass defensed. Smart move by the coaches to switch Claiborne and Carr before the season. Both are playing much better.

Overall, the defense was gashed early, allowing touchdowns and a 100% conversion rate (seven for seven) on San Francisco’s first two drives to dig a 14-0 hole. But it was a different story after that. San Francisco would only one more third down all game and Dallas outscored them 24-3 the rest of the way. Overall yards surrendered? 295.

Special Teams

There are six special teams: field goal kicks and blocks, kick off returns and coverage, and punt returns and coverage.

Field Goal Kicks and Blocks.

These teams are made up mostly of offensive and defensive linemen and tight ends, plus the long snapper, holder and kicker, and some speed guys for the edge. I mostly want to focus on the other teams. This week, Dan Bailey was one for two on field goals, missing from 47 yards again, and perfect on three extra points. Dallas was concerned that his back was tight before the game, and it showed on the field goal, though not on his kickoffs.

Kick Off and Punt Returns and Coverage

Bob Sturm broke down the kick off teams for the Giants game, complete with screen shots of the coverage and return units. It is largely the same guys on the punt return and coverage groups.

  • Damien Wilson, 20 snaps
  • Kyle Wilber, Jeff Heath, 19
  • Andrew Gachkar, Keith Smith, 17 each
  • JJ Wilcox, 12
  • Byron Jones, 11
  • Anthony Brown, Lance Dunbar, 10
  • Barry Church, 9
  • Anthony Hitchens, 8
  • Gavin Escobar, Lucky Whitehead, 7
  • Mo Claiborne, Rod Smith, 5

Mostly uneventful outside of Bailey’s missed field goal, though Kerley had a 26-yard punt return for San Francisco. Whitehead had two punt returns for a total of 25 yards and a kickoff return of 28 yards which showed his toughness. Chris Jones was much longer than his counterpart on kicks, but had a lower net due to the Kerley return.

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