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Snap Counts For The Cowboys’ Defense: The Offense Made It Easy

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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: Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-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 eight, an efficient 35-10 beat down of Cleveland.

Defense

Overall, because the offense dominated the time of possession 39:39 to 20:21, the defense only took the field for 44 plays. This was nine fewer than the next lowest game, at San Francisco. This helped the Cowboys give up only 10 points and 223 yards. That’s something Dallas has only done twice over the last five seasons. They held Cleveland to one of nine on third down conversions. Dallas also got four sacks, but no turnovers.

It was the eighth consecutive game the Cowboys have not allowed a 100-yard rusher or a 100-yard receiver, tops in the NFL. Dallas is now tied with Arizona for fourth in the NFL in points per game allowed at 17.5.

Cleveland had 194 yards at half time, with 11 first downs. They would finish with 222 and 13. David Irving was ejected from the game, along with Cleveland’s center, on the game’s first drive.

The Defensive Line

The starting four were the same: Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain, Maliek Collins, and Jack Crawford. Here are the overall counts (out of 44 snaps, the fewest snaps on the season):

  • Tyrone Crawford, 32 snaps (half the number he had in Philadelphia). One tackle.
  • DeMarcus Lawrence, 32 snaps. Two tackles, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit.
  • Maliek Collins, 28 snaps. Three tackles, two sacks.
  • Terrell McClain, 26 snaps. Two tackles, one quarterback hit.
  • Jack Crawford, 21 snaps. No stats.
  • Benson Mayowa, 17 snaps. One tackle.
  • Cedric Thornton, 12 snaps. One tackle for loss.
  • David Irving, one snap. He got himself ejected on his one play.

How do these compare to last week? This was a very light game, even for the players who played the most, so everyone’s snaps were down.

The star here was Maliek Collins with two sacks. Overall, they completely shut down Cleveland’s running game, 13 carries for 45 yards.

The Linebackers

This week, Sean Lee still played 100%, Anthony Hitchens played 82%, Justin Durant played 11%, and Damien Wilson appeared in 34% of the plays. The other linebackers only played on special teams. In recent weeks, Hitchens and Durant were roughly equivalent in the number of snaps.

  • Sean Lee, 44 snaps. Eight tackles, one tackle for loss.
  • Anthony Hitchens, 36 snaps. Six tackles, 0.5 sacks.
  • Damien Wilson, 15 snaps. One tackle, 0.5 sacks.
  • Justin Durant, 5 snaps. Two tackles, a sack.

Sean Lee continues humming along, while Justin Durant got a sack, and Hitchens and Wilson split a sack. That’s pretty good production out of Durant for five plays.

The Secondary

No Mo Claiborne or Barry Church in this game. Other than a 44-yard reception on Cleveland’s first drive, and a couple of plays on the Brown’s only touchdown drive, the secondary played lights out. Brandon Carr was especially good, with a pass breakup and tight coverage. Orlando Scandrick led the secondary in tackles.

  • Brandon Carr, 44 snaps. Two tackles, one pass defense.
  • Byron Jones, 44 snaps. One tackle.
  • Orlando Scandrick, 44 snaps. Five tackles.
  • J.J. Wilcox, 44 snaps. Two tackles.
  • Anthony Brown, 31 snaps. One tackle.
  • Jeff Heath, 8 snaps. One tackle.

Cleveland drove on Dallas twice, once to start the game with a 44-yard catch and run that led to a field goal, and a seven-play 80-yard drive just before halftime. Those two drives accounted for 142 of Cleveland’s 222 yards of offense. In the second half, Dallas held the Browns to 28 yards and two first downs. That was in large part due to the offense hogging the ball for 22:24 out of 30 minutes.

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 a perfect on five extra points.

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, Jeff Heath, 19 snaps
  • Kyle Wilber, 18
  • Andrew Gachkar, 16
  • Anthony Brown, Byron Jones, JJ Wilcox, 13
  • Gavin Escobar, Leon McFadden, 10
  • Geoff Swaim, Kavon Frazier, 9
  • Lucky Whitehead, 8

Nothing significant happened on special teams. Dan Bailey didn’t even have any field goal tries. Kavon Frazier and Leon McFadden saw their first action, with Rod Smith cut, and Keith Smith inactive.

Defensive snap counts - week 2 - Washington

Defensive snap counts - week 3 - Bears

Defensive snap counts - week 4 - Niners

Defensive snap counts - week 5 - Cincinnati

Defensive snap counts - week 6 - Green Bay

Snap counts at the bye

Defensive snap counts - week 7 - Philadelphia