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Snap Counts For The Cowboys’ Defense: Bend But Don’t Break

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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: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-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. This is for week twelve, a game where the defense gave up lots of ground — 505 total yards — but kept Washington out of the end zone until the fourth quarter, and never had to hold with the game on the line. Dallas won 31-26, avenging a Thanksgiving day loss to Washington when they were sporting a rookie quarterback and running back.

Defensive Overview

Washington won the time of possession 33:24 to 26:36, so Dallas’ defense was on the field for 75 plays, which is at or near the highest total in the season.

The Cowboys surrendered 505 yards, including 449 passing yards. And despite Kirk Cousins dropping back and throwing the ball 53 times, didn’t get an interception (except on a failed 2-point conversion) or a sack. Dallas hit Cousins several times early, but by the end of the game was rushing three most of the time.

DeSean Jackson caught four passes for 118 yards, the first time a receiver has passed the 100-yard threshold without needing garbage time to do so. The rushing defense was much more stout, holding Washington to 56 yards and making them one-dimensional on offense.

The Defensive Line

Demarcus Lawrence took Jack Crawford’s spot in the starting lineup, with the other three starters the same: Terrell McClain, Maliek Collins, and Tyrone Crawford. Here are the counts out of 75 snaps.

Player Pos Games Gms 1-9 Gm 10 Gm 11 Total Season Percent
Tyrone Crawford DE/DT 11 384 36 49 469 708 66%
Jack Crawford DE/DT 11 356 20 25 401 708 57%
Maliek Collins DT 11 333 28 34 395 708 56%
Terrell McClain DT 11 314 21 24 359 708 51%
Benson Mayowa DE 8 202 202 708 29%
Cedric Thornton DT 11 193 18 21 232 708 33%
David Irving DE/DT 11 179 26 43 248 708 35%
Demarcus Lawrence DE 7 168 41 52 261 708 37%
Ryan Davis DE 7 80 14 24 118 708 17%

Ryan Davis took Benson Mayowa’s spot again. DeMarcus Lawrence had the most snaps again, followed by Tyrone Crawford and David Irving. Without counting number of rushmen on each play, one can see from totaling the rushmen’s plays that they were on the field for 272 snaps. Had exactly four rushmen been in each play, it would have been 300 snaps. So almost a third of Washington’s plays saw only three Cowboys’ defensive linemen on the field.

The linemen who put up stats were:

  • DeMarcus Lawrence, three tackles.
  • Cedric Thornton, three tackles and a quarterback hit. Bryan Broaddus noted his play in Scout’s Eye.
  • Maliek Collins, two tackles, and
  • Terrell McClain, two tackles.
  • Tyrone Crawford, one tackle and two quarterback hits.
  • Ryan Davis, one quarterback hit.

Noticeably absent is David Irving. Not sure what more can be done for this group this season. Charles Tapper could theoretically get healthy enough to play and be reinstated from IR, but with so little time left, it’s hard to imagine he could play or have any impact. No one else is riding to the rescue.

The Linebackers

Here are the stats:

Player Pos Games Gms 1-9 Gm 10 Gm 11 Total Season Percent
Sean Lee LB 11 576 55 75 706 708 100%
Anthony Hitchens LB 11 284 26 44 354 708 50%
Justin Durant LB 11 220 28 5 253 708 36%
Damien Wilson LB 11 70 15 42 127 708 18%
Kyle Wilber LB 8 37 37 708 5%
Andrew Gachkar LB 9 29 29 708 4%

Who racked up stats.

  • Sean Lee, 14 tackles and a tackle for loss, and interception on Washington’s two-point conversion try.
  • Damien Wilson, five tackles, and a key on-side kick recovery.
  • Anthony Hitchens, three tackles and a tackle for loss
  • Justin Durant, two tackles (on five snaps), including tackling Jamison Crowder on an attempted screen pass that went nowhere. Washington was forced to try a 43-yard field goal, which went wide left.

Sean Lee was everywhere trying to hold down the fort. The front seven did a very good job on Fat Rob and Chris Thompson. Justin Durant went out with a hamstring for part of the game.

The Secondary

No Mo Claiborne or Barry Church for the fourth game in a row. Barry could be back next week, but there is no timetable on when Claiborne will return. JJ Wilcox got a deep thigh bruise, and Byron Jones was hobbling, forcing Jeff Heath into the game for 42 snaps, and giving Kavon Frazier his first action with 14 snaps.

Player Pos Games Gms 1-9 Gm 10 Gm 11 Total Season Percent
Brandon Carr CB 11 574 55 75 704 708 99%
Morris Claiborne CB 9 408 408 708 58%
Anthony Brown CB 11 338 42 59 439 708 62%
Orlando Scandrick CB 7 249 53 75 377 708 53%
Leon McFadden CB 2 17 17 708 2%
Byron Jones S 11 515 55 75 645 708 91%
Barry Church S 7 379 379 708 54%
J.J. Wilcox S 11 371 55 47 473 708 67%
Jeff Heath S 11 69 17 42 128 708 18%
Kavon Frazier S 1 14 14 708 2%

Kirk Cousins threw for 449 yards on 53 attempts, for a quarterback rating of 120.7. But somehow the Cowboys kept Washington out of the end zone until the fourth quarter. Anthony Brown and Byron Jones were burned deep by DeSean Jackson, while Jones got burned a couple other times by Jordan Reed. Washington is good. The fact that Dallas gave up yards but not points has to be considered a victory for the defense.

Here are the tackles.

  • Anthony Brown, seven tackles and a pass defensed.
  • Byron Jones, seven tackles and a pass defensed.
  • Brandon Carr, five tackles and a pass defensed.
  • J.J. Wilcox, four tackles and a pass defensed.
  • Orlando Scandrick, three tackles and two passes defensed.
  • Jeff Heath, three tackles.
  • Kavon Frazier, one tackle.

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, 20 snaps
  • Damien Wilson, 19
  • Andrew Gachkar, 15
  • Byron Jones, Anthony Brown, 13
  • Vincent Mayle, 12
  • Leon McFadden, 10

The most significant special teams plays were Washington’s two missed field goals, in which Dallas played no real part. Next was Damien Wilson’s recovery of Washington’s first on-side kick. The second one went out of bounds. Dan Bailey kicked a 46-yard field goal. There was no punt return yardage. Dallas punted twice and Washington once, with Chris Jones netting more yards. There were also no kickoff returns.

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

Defensive snap counts - game 10 - Baltimore