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Snap Counts On The Cowboys Defense: Sean Lee And Byron Jones Try To Plug The Dike

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

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys defense is where snap counts tend to be the most interesting, because defense tends to have much more substitution and rotation than you have on offense. On offense, we broke it down into three groups — the every down guys, the second tier, and everyone else. On defense, we’re going to break it down by position group to see what’s going on.

The Defensive Line

With Charles Tapper not ready to play, and newly-acquired Ryan Davis a game-time scratch, Dallas suited up only seven defensive lineman in week two. There were 67 overall defensive snaps. Here’s how those snaps were divided:

  • Terrell McClain, 46 snaps
  • Tyrone Crawford, 44
  • Jack Crawford, 43
  • Maliek Collins, 35
  • Benson Mayowa, 35
  • David Irving, 33
  • Cedric Thornton, 26
  • Kyle Wilber, 10

This group is obviously a work in progress. They have gotten home for two sacks in each game, which is ahead of last year’s pace, though that’s not saying much. But they’ve also allowed Eli Manning and Kirk Cousins far too much time to pass. And their run defense has not hampered New York or Washington, which are not known as running teams.

Coach Marinelli is still experimenting with the groups. This week he moved Tyrone Crawford to left defensive end in the second half, where Jack Crawford had started the game. Both sacks came from this position.

According to Pro Football Focus player grades, Terrell McClain ranks best on the inside, and David Irving ranks best on the outside. Everyone else scores extremely poorly, with Tyrone Crawford ranking as the worst interior lineman of week one and getting called out by Jason Garrett.

Fortunately, some reinforcements are on the way. Demarcus Lawrence will return in three weeks. Ryan Davis will likely work his way onto the game-day roster. And Charles Tapper will eventually get healthy. The young players we have might also improve over time. But this group also suffered a setback when Randy Gregory decided not to appeal a second suspension, and will be lost at least 14 games, and perhaps the whole season.

The Linebackers

This group is made up of Sean Lee, and then everyone else. Snaps?

  • Sean Lee, 67 snaps
  • Justin Durant, 29
  • Anthony Hitchens, 23
  • Andrew Gachkar, 13

Pro Football Focus does not rate Lee quite as highly as last year, but he still has the highest number grade of any Dallas Cowboys defender at 84. Everyone else in the 40s. From this, it’s understandable that Dallas hasn’t cut Rolando McClain yet. Knock wood that Lee can stay healthy, or this group could be in dire peril. As it is, they are challenging the defensive line for weakest team group.

The Secondary

This is where most of every down players reside on defense.

  • Brandon Carr, 67 snaps
  • Morris Claiborne, 67
  • Byron Jones, 66
  • Barry Church, 58
  • Orlando Scandrick, 49
  • J.J. Wilcox, 24

This week, Jeff Heath and Anthony Brown didn’t get any snaps on defense. Scandrick is nursing his hamstring, which is why he’s not in there 100%. He also gave up a TD catch to Crowder.

Both Claiborne and Carr have made some plays, but Pro Football Focus has not given them any love. Carr is rated higher than Claiborne, 77 to 70. That’s 23rd and 43rd among league CBs.

At safety, Byron Jones is ranked by PFF as just a notch below Sean Lee, with an 83.9, ranking him seventh among NFL safeties. Barry Church is ranked 43rd.

Who made plays this week? Church had the biggest play with the end zone interception. But overall, while the defense gave up lots of yards, they kept Washington to six points over four red zone trips, and stopped Washington on it’s last two drives once Dallas had a 27-23 lead. It was just enough for a win.