In the previous article on this site, my colleague DannyPhantom discussed an ESPN article ranking the leagues best offensive triplets. The legacy of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin lives on across the NFL. While ESPN had the Cowboys current set of triplets (Tony Romo, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant) rated sixth overall, my colleague argued that once Ezekiel Elliott gets going, the Cowboys will be number one. That’s certainly something we all would like to see.
Today ESPN expanded their triplet theme to the defensive side of the ball. That’s an interesting topic since there is no "natural" triplet grouping to choose from like QB/RB/WR. The author, Bill Barnwell, freely admits that so he just picked what he thought were the three best defensive players from each team. (He also basically did that in the article on the offensive triplets.) So who would you think are the Cowboys three best defensive players?
One of them is obvious. Sean Lee, when healthy, is the Cowboys best defensive player. In fact, he’s probably among the top 100 players in the league when he’s on his game and not affected by injury. That’s always been the issue with Lee, you almost can’t write about him without using phrases like "when healthy." Still, there’s little debate that he’s the best the Cowboys got on defense.
After Lee, there is a lot more debate. For Barnwell, he went with Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence, and ranked that trio a lowly 29th in the league.
29. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are blessed to have Rod Marinelli, who perennially coaches up relatively anonymous defensive linemen into meaningful contributors, but there's not a lot of top-level talent to work with in Dallas. Pedigreed players such as Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne haven't lived up to expectations, while valuable slot corner Orlando Scandrick is coming off of a torn ACL. The Cowboys have a useful second tier of starters in Cedric Thornton, Rolando McClain and Byron Jones, but this is a team full of offensive stars and bereft of difference-makers on defense. One notable problem: The Cowboys stopped creating turnovers. They forced takeaways on a league-high 17.2 percent of possessions in 2014, only for that figure to fall to a league-low 6.0 percent of possessions last year. They'll likely be somewhere in the middle in 2016, which should aid matters.
I really don’t have much argument about the ranking of 29th. The Cowboys defense has not proven itself. As for the selection of the other two defenders, even though Orlando Scandrick missed the 2015 season and is coming off injury, he’s still the Cowboys second-best defensive player in my book. I get bypassing him because of the injury, but my optimistic bet is that he’s going to be fine and return to form.
As for the third choice, I would agree with Tyrone Crawford. That’s a mixture of potential and production. As has been mentioned many times before, much of what Crawford does hasn’t showed up on the stats sheet. But, the potential is there for more sacks and more disruption. It’s close, but he would be my third choice. I would bunch DeMarcus Lawrence in with Rolando McClain and Byron Jones as my next choices.
What about you BTB? Who would you choose as "triplets" on defense for the Cowboys, and do they deserve the ranking of 29th in the league?