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Snap Counts For The Cowboys’ Defense: Good Enough To Win

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Who played, and who produced, for the Dallas Cowboys defense? 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.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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, with tables being added this week for the first time. This is for week ten, a game where the defense gave up some ground early, but held the line long enough for the offense to start rolling in a 27-17 win at home over Baltimore. It was Dallas’s first victory in five game over the Ravens, and now the Cowboys have beaten every team in the NFL.

Defensive Overview

Overall, the defensive snap counts were much more modest this week, at 55, because Dallas totally dominated the time of possession in the second half with more than 20 minutes controlling the ball. The Cowboys surrendered 368 yards, 56 of those were on the desperation drive inside two minutes after Dallas took a 10-point lead. Baltimore converted three of nine third downs. Dallas got one sack, for two yards, but no turnovers, when another forced fumble was recovered by the Ravens.

Steve Smith gained 99 yards, and Dallas’s streak of not allowing a 100-yard receiver or rusher might have continued but for but Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown putting up 55 empty yards in the last nine seconds of the previous game. The rushing defense got gashed early, leading to Baltimore’s first touchdown, but stiffened after the first quarter.

Dallas is tied for fifth in points allowed per game at 18.7, but and continues to lead the NFL in points per game differential at 9.9.

The Defensive Line

Demarcus Lawrence took Tyrone Crawford’s spot in the starting lineup, with the other three starters the same: Terrell McClain, Maliek Collins, and Jack Crawford. Here are the counts out of 55 snaps.

Player Pos Games Gms 1-9 Gm 10 Total Season Percent
Tyrone Crawford DE/DT 9 384 36 420 632 66%
Jack Crawford DE/DT 9 356 20 376 632 59%
Maliek Collins DT 9 333 28 361 632 57%
Terrell McClain DT 9 314 21 335 632 53%
Benson Mayowa DE 8 202 202 632 32%
Cedric Thornton DT 9 193 18 211 632 33%
David Irving DE/DT 8 179 26 205 632 32%
Demarcus Lawrence DE 5 168 41 209 632 33%
Ryan Davis DE 5 80 14 94 632 15%

Benson Mayowa was a healthy scratch again, giving way to Ryan Davis. The linemen who put up stats were:

  • Jack Crawford, one tackle, a sack, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit,
  • David Irving, one tackle, a tackle for loss, and a pass defensed,
  • Cedric Thornton, a tackle and a forced fumble,
  • Maliek Collins, 2 tackles, and
  • Terrell McClain, 2 tackles.
  • DeMarcus Lawrense didn’t show up on the stat sheet.

Against Joe Flacco, this was sufficient. Against a hot Washington offense, the Cowboys need to find a way to have more impact plays from their line.

The Linebackers

Here are the stats:

Player Pos Games Gms 1-9 Gm 10 Total Season Percent
Sean Lee LB 9 576 55 631 632 100%
Anthony Hitchens LB 9 284 26 310 632 49%
Justin Durant LB 9 220 28 248 632 39%
Damien Wilson LB 9 70 15 85 632 13%
Kyle Wilber LB 8 37 37 632 6%
Andrew Gachkar LB 9 29 29 632 5%

Who racked up stats.

  • Sean Lee, five tackles.
  • Justin Durant, three tackles.
  • Anthony Hitchens, three tackles and a quarterback hit.
  • Damien Wilson, one tackle.

Not much to say about this week, except they tightened things up after the first quarter. Also, Sean Lee didn’t take out any of our own players.

The Secondary

No Mo Claiborne or Barry Church for the third game in a row. Barry should be back fairly soon, but Claiborne may not make it before the playoffs, if then. Thank goodness Anthony Brown is playing so well. Here are the stats.

Player Pos Games Gms 1-9 Gm 10 Total Season Percent
Brandon Carr CB 9 574 55 629 632 100%
Morris Claiborne CB 7 408 408 632 65%
Anthony Brown CB 9 338 42 380 632 60%
Orlando Scandrick CB 5 249 53 302 632 48%
Leon McFadden CB 2 17 17 632 3%
Byron Jones S 9 515 55 570 632 90%
Barry Church S 7 379 379 632 60%
J.J. Wilcox S 9 371 55 426 632 67%
Jeff Heath S 9 69 17 86 632 14%

Joe Flacco threw for 269 yards on 35 attempts, for a quarterback rating of 98.4, though 56 of those yards came after the game was decided. Scandrick, Carr, and Brown covered all the cornerback snaps, with Leon McFadden reduced to special teams. J.J. Wilcox and Byron Jones played every down at safety.

It’s too bad about Claiborne’s injury, as it could spell the end of his career in Dallas. He played great this year, and will be needed for the playoffs. But he just can’t stay healthy. Brandon Carr, by contrast, plays every down.

Here are the tackles.

  • Byron Jones, eight tackles.
  • J.J. Wilcox, seven tackles.
  • Brandon Carr, two tackles.
  • Anthony Brown, five tackles.
  • Orlando Scandrick, three tackles.
  • Jeff Heath, one tackles.

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.

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.

  • Jeff Heath, 24 snaps
  • Damien Wilson, Kyle Wilber, 23
  • Andrew Gachkar, 21
  • Vincent Mayle, 16
  • Leon McFadden, 13
  • Byron Jones, 12
  • JJ Wilcox, Anthony Hitchens, 11
  • Gavin Escobar, Kavon Frazier, 10
  • Lucky Whitehead, Anthony Brown, Lance Dunbar, 8

The good news is that Dallas didn’t let Baltimore’s special teams cause any havoc in the game. Devin Hester had no yardage on one punt return, and only 17 yards on his kickoff return. Dan Bailey hit field goals of 30 and 21 yards. Chris Jones had a better net than the Raven’s punter, 41 to 38.6 yards. Lucky Whitehead had a 21-yard punt return.

The highlight might have been Vincent Mayle’s hit on Devin Hester as a punt returner. Mayle was just called up from the practice squad to take Geoff Swaim’s roster spot.

Defensive snap counts - game 2 - Washington

Defensive snap counts - game 3 - Bears

Defensive snap counts - game 4 - Niners

Defensive snap counts - game 5 - Cincinnati

Defensive snap counts - game 6 - Green Bay

Snap counts at the bye

Defensive snap counts - game 7 - Philadelphia

Defensive snap counts - game 8- Cleveland

Defensive snap counts - game 9 - Pittsburgh