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Snap Counts For The Defense: A Great First Half Kept The Game In Hand

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.

NFL: Chicago Bears 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. This is for week three, a Dallas 31-17 home win over the Bears.


The Defensive Line

The big news here is that Dallas shuffled it’s line by moving Tyrone Crawford to left defensive end to start the game, inserting rookie Maliek Collins in as the starting 3-technique. Ryan Davis was also activated. Here are the counts (out of 65 snaps):

  • Jack Crawford, 44 snaps
  • Tyrone Crawford, 43
  • Maliek Collins, 41
  • Terrell McClain, 39
  • Benson Mayowa, 28
  • David Irving, 22
  • Cedric Thornton, 13
  • Ryan Davis, 8
  • Kyle Wilber, 7

How do these compare to last week (which had 67 snaps)? Jack and Tyrone Crawford were about the same. Terrell McClain was down seven snaps, while Maliek Collins was up six snaps. Benson Mayowa was also down seven snaps, and these might have been taken by Ryan Davis. Cedric Thornton was the biggest disappointment, as he saw his count cut in half from 26 to 13. David Irving was also down 11 snaps from last week.

No sacks were credited to the line, though they did recover a fumble that Brian Hoyer gifted to them after he tripped over one of his own lineman. Tyrone Crawford had two tackles for loss and Collins had one.

This is clearly a group in transition. Terrell McClain has played the best so far, and Maliek Collins may be up and coming, but this group needs Demarcus Lawrence back in a bad way. Also, when will Charles Tapper be ready, and what can he bring?

The Linebackers

Still Sean Lee, and everyone else.

  • Sean Lee, 65 snaps (100%)
  • Justin Durant, 25
  • Anthony Hitchens, 22
  • Damien Wilson, 10
  • Andrew Gachkar, 3

Sean Lee remains the best player in the Cowboys front seven. Justin Durant and Anthony Hitchens continue to split the middle linebacker job, which may help keep both of them healthy. The interesting news this week is that Damien Wilson took 10 of Andrew Gachkar’s snaps. Was this due to an injury we don’t know about? Or some step up in play? This group needs Mark Nzeocha back.

The Secondary

This is probably the best part of the Dallas defense. Who knows how good they might be with a stronger front seven. Snaps?

  • Brandon Carr, 65 snaps
  • Mo Claiborne, 64
  • Barry Church, 63
  • Anthony Brown, 56
  • Byron Jones, 54
  • JJ Wilcox, 41
  • Jeff Heath, 1

The biggest changes here were that Orlando Scandrick was out, so Anthony Brown took his place. We didn’t hear his number called, so that is a good thing. Also, Wilcox played 17 more snaps, and Byron Jones played 12 fewer snaps. Was that for rest?

Who played well? Wilcox had a good game with some ferocious hits, one of which forced a fumble. Mo Claiborne was targeted a lot but held up very well. Overall, the Bears ended up with lots of passing yards, but most was after the game was in hand. At the half, when Dallas had a 24-3 lead, Hoyer had passed for 71 of his eventual 317 yards.

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 one for two on field goals, missing from 47 yards, and perfect on four 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.

  • Kyle Wilber, Damien Wilson, Jeff Heath, 20 snaps
  • Andrew Gachkar, Keith Smith, 16 each
  • Barry Church, 13
  • Byron Jones, 12
  • Gavin Escobar, 11
  • J.J. Wilcox, 10
  • Robert Smith, Anthony Brown, 8
  • Morris Claiborne, Lucky Whitehead, 7

The most significant thing that happened on special teams was the botched onside kick by Chicago that was called back for an offsides penalty. It was otherwise successful. Kick off and punt returns were uneventful. Chris Jones out-punted his Chicago counterpart.

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