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Snap Counts For The Cowboys’ Defense: 2016 Regular Season Totals

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Who played, and who produced, for the Dallas Cowboys defense this week and this season?

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Defensive Overview

For the Eagles’ game, the defense was without six starters or prominent role players who were made inactive to get healthy for the playoffs: Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Cedric Thornton, Terrell McClain, Mo Claiborne, and Justin Durant. The seventh inactive was Tyron Smith. Sean Lee suited up, but didn’t play a snap.

While Dak Prescott and Tony Romo were in the game, Dallas built a 10-3 lead, but two interceptions thrown by Mark Sanchez helped Philadelphia tie the game at the half, and a late 19-yard sack that Sanchez took led to Chris Jones punting out of the end zone without his usual drop. It was blocked and led to a finishing touchdown for Philadelphia in the last two minutes. Dallas 13, Philadelphia 27. It was the second most points Dallas had given up all season.

A Few Observations About The Season

In the Offensive Snap Counts article, we laid out a number of observations about the season for that side of the ball. Here is the defensive side.

  • The defense played one less play than the offense, 1,058 to 1,059.
  • Nine players played 16 games on defense. By order of snaps: Brandon Carr, Byron Jones, Anthony Brown, Maliek Collins, Anthony Hitchens, Jack Crawford, David Irving, Damien Wilson, Jeff Heath.
  • No one played 100%, though Carr and Sean Lee could have but for the last game. Only Carr, Jones, and Lee played above 90% of snaps. Next highest was Anthony Brown at 68%.
  • The Cowboys lost only two defensive players to injured reserve: Charles Tapper, Ryan Davis.
  • Other defensive players out due to injury: Mo Claiborne (9 games), Barry Church (4), JJ Wilcox (3), Tyrone Crawford (2), Terrell McClain (1), DeMarcus Lawrence (3, plus 4 to suspension), Cedric Thornton (3), Ryan Davis (1), Justin Durant (3). It’s not clear how many games Mark Nzeocha lost to injury versus being inactive by coaches choice.

Among the surprises on defense this year

  • Anthony Brown emerged as a quality starting cornerback as a sixth-round rookie, ending up with the second-most snaps among cornerbacks, and fourth on the defense as a whole.
  • Maliek Collins, as a third-round rookie who missed most of training camp and pre-season, played the most snaps on the defensive line.
  • J.J. Wilcox played a prominent and successful role at safety.
  • Terrell McClain stayed healthy (except for the last game) and kept the starting 1-technique defensive tackle job the whole season.
  • Randy Gregory returned and flashed the promise that led Dallas to draft him, picking up his first NFL sack.
  • Sean Lee still didn’t get to play all 16 games, but stayed healthy the entire year.

The Defensive Line

Here are the counts out of 76 snaps on the game. 1058 on the season. Only 10 guys played overall.

Player Pos Games Gms 1-9 Gm 10 Gm 11 Gm 12 Gm 13 Gm 14 Gm 15 Gm 16 Total Total Percent
Maliek Collins DT 16 333 28 34 49 46 46 65 58 659 1058 62%
Tyrone Crawford DE/DT 14 384 36 49 49 50 25 0 0 593 1058 56%
Jack Crawford DE/DT 16 356 20 25 22 23 21 43 51 561 1058 53%
David Irving DE/DT 16 179 26 43 41 36 38 67 59 489 1058 46%
Terrell McClain DT 15 314 21 24 31 29 40 12 0 471 1058 45%
Benson Mayowa DE 13 202 0 0 22 42 34 42 40 382 1058 36%
DeMarcus Lawrence DE 9 168 41 52 55 13 0 0 0 329 1058 31%
Cedric Thornton DT 13 193 18 21 21 24 0 0 0 277 1058 26%
Ryan Davis DE 8 80 14 24 0 0 28 9 0 155 1058 15%
Randy Gregory DE 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 23 43 66 1058 6%
Richard Ash DT 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 30 30 1058 3%

The official stats were:

  • Randy Gregory, eight tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, and a quarterback hit. No defensive linemen has had close to that many tackles in a game this year. Pretty impressive for his second game after a very long layoff.
  • David Irving, two tackles, a tackle for loss, and two quarterback hits.
  • Jack Crawford, three tackles, a half-sack (with Andrew Gachkar), a tackle for loss, and two quarterback hits.
  • Richard Ash, two tackles and a tackle for loss.

The defensive line was not as dominant as the previous two games, but it also didn’t have the linebacker and defensive back support it had been receiving. Also, Carson Wentz was elusive, and the line often was unable to pen him in to get the sack. Overall, Philadelphia rushed for 114 yards, more than 30 yards above Dallas’s average.

The Linebackers

Player Pos Games Gms 1-9 Gm 10 Gm 11 Gm 12 Gm 13 Gm 14 Gm 15 Gm 16 Total Total Percent
Sean Lee LB 15 576 55 75 74 67 62 68 0 977 1058 92%
Anthony Hitchens LB 16 284 26 44 52 44 37 54 40 581 1058 55%
Justin Durant LB 13 220 28 5 0 13 16 0 0 282 1058 27%
Damien Wilson LB 16 70 15 42 26 7 18 31 75 284 1058 27%
Andrew Gachkar LB 4 29 0 0 0 0 0 0 45 74 1058 7%
Kyle Wilber LB 7 37 0 0 0 0 0 3 9 49 1058 5%
Mark Nzeocha LB 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 16 16 1058 2%

Without Sean Lee, the group was obviously not as strong. Here were the stats for the other guys.

  • Damien Wilson, eight tackles, three tackles for loss, and a quarterback hit. Bryan Broaddus made a nice comment about Wilson’s speed in his after-game observations.
  • Andrew Gachkar, six tackles, a half-sack, a tackle for loss and three quarterback hits.
  • Anthony Hitchens, four tackles.
  • Mark Nzeocha, two tackles.

The Secondary

Player Pos Games Gms 1-9 Gm 10 Gm 11 Gm 12 Gm 13 Gm 14 Gm 15 Gm 16 Total Season Percent
Brandon Carr CB 16 574 55 75 74 67 62 71 37 1015 1058 96%
Anthony Brown CB 16 338 42 59 74 67 61 9 67 717 1058 68%
Orlando Scandrick CB 12 249 53 75 54 60 46 71 37 645 1058 61%
Morris Claiborne CB 7 408 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 408 1058 39%
Leon McFadden CB 3 17 0 0 0 0 0 0 39 56 1058 5%
Byron Jones S 16 515 55 75 74 67 61 71 68 986 1058 93%
Barry Church S 12 379 0 0 72 67 57 69 32 676 1058 64%
J.J. Wilcox S 13 371 55 47 0 0 0 51 33 557 1058 53%
Jeff Heath S 16 69 17 42 24 16 17 22 36 243 1058 23%
Kavon Frazier S 3 0 0 14 0 0 2 0 21 37 1058 3%

Carson Wentz was 27 of 45 for 245 yards, two touchdowns, and no turnovers, for a 93.7 quarterback rating. Other than the turnovers and touchdowns, that’s almost exactly what Matthew Stafford did last week.

Here are the official stats.

  • Byron Jones, six tackles and a pass defensed.
  • Barry Church, five tackles.
  • Leon McFadden, four tackles.
  • Jeff Heath, three tackles.
  • Orlando Scandrick, three tackles.
  • J.J. Wilcox, three tackles. (I missed his stats last game, where he had three tackles, an interception, and two passes defensed.)
  • Anthony Brown, one pass defensed.
  • Kavon Frazier, one tackle, and one big hit I recall from the game.

Special Teams

There are six special teams: field goal kicks and blocks, kick off returns and coverage, and punt returns and coverage. The numbers below are mostly for kick off and punt returns and coverage.

  • Kyle Wilber, 26 snaps.
  • Damien Wilson, 25.
  • Jeff Heath, 24.
  • Andrew Gachkar, 23.
  • Kavon Frazier, 20.
  • Mark Nzeocha, 19.
  • Byron Jones, 18.
  • Leon McFadden, 17.
  • Keith Smith, 15.
  • Gavin Escobar, 14.
  • Lucky Whitehead, 10.
  • Byron Jones, 8.

The punters were about equal on distance, but not net, with Chris Jones and the Cowboys netting 39 yards, and the Eagles punter netting 44.3 yards.

The biggest play was an Eagles block of a Chris Jones punt out of the Dallas end zone. It set them up for their last touchdown. Mark Sanchez was the one mostly at fault for taking a 19-yard sack when he had multiple opportunities to throw the ball away.

In the return game, does anyone else think that Lucky Whitehead just needs to go north and south when he catches punts and not always try to go side to side to hit the home run?

Dan Bailey was two for two on field goals, while the Eagles kicker missed one.

Overall, it was a pretty uneventful year on special teams. The Cowboys didn’t come close to breaking a kick off or punt for a touchdown, but they didn’t give up any either. Dan Bailey missed a few more kicks than normal, and has now slipped out of the all-time top spot for field goal kickers to Justin Tucker, who leads him by 89.840% to 89.529%.

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

Defensive snap counts - game 11 - Washington

Defensive snap counts - game 12 - Minnesota

Defensive snap counts - game 13 - New York

Defensive snap counts - game 14 - Tampa Bay

Defensive snap counts - game 15 - Detroit