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Need For Speed: How Does The Dallas Cowboys’ Defense Stack Up To NFL Averages?

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In terms of speed, are the Dallas Cowboys better than the average bear?

NCAA Football: Colorado at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the draft is over, the Cowboys have a room full of new toys to play with. We’ve established that the front office went looking for defense and kept hitting the problem, with seven of their nine picks devoted to the defense. They also managed to get five of their nine picks from their Top-68 prospects on their board.

In the never-ending world of building the roster, it’s pretty clear that the Cowboys are looking to add speed as well as youth to their defense. A few years into the system, we have become obsessed with fitting players to Rod Marinelli’s style. We know that the Hot-Rod likes to rush four, loves tackling machines at linebacker, prefers feisty cornerbacks with ball skills, and has a need for speed throughout. That speed he covets is not only from his rushmen but from his entire secondary too.

This year has the optimism running high after a defensive heavy draft because just maybe this team is on its way to balance. What could this team do with some substantial improvement on the defensive side of the ball? We all hope to soon find out. Just for curiosity, we went back and grabbed some of the testing results from the Combine and Pro Days for the most likely contenders on the Cowboys’ defense in 2017. It’s clear that the need for speed is present for this team. We decided to measure your Dallas Cowboys versus the averages of most NFL players according to this guide of Combine numbers from 2015. Let’s start with the defensive backs:

[Author Note: We did not factor in the entire roster, just guys with the best opportunities to play significant snaps.]

Position Player Age 40 Time 3-Cone 20-yard Shuttle
CB Chidobe Awuzie 21 4.43 6.81 4.14
CB Jourdan Lewis 21 4.54 6.88 4.38
CB Marquez White 22 4.59 7.28 4.36
CB Anthony Brown 23 4.35 7.03 4.19
CB Orlando Scandrick 30 4.32 (2008) 6.83 DNP
CB Nolan Carroll 30 4.42 (2010) 6.81 4.21
S Byron Jones 24 4.43 6.78 3.94
S Jeff Heath 25 4.48 6.88 4.36
S Xavier Woods 21 4.51 6.72 4.13
S Kavon Frazier 22 4.58 6.88 4.4
S Robert Blanton 27 4.52 6.71 3.97
DB Average 24.2 4.49 6.87 4.21

First, we examine the 40 times and see that the Cowboys average is 4.49, but keep in mind that Carroll and Scandrick are probably not as fast as they once were. Still, when you measure up the Cowboys’ 40 times with the average for NFL defensive backs (4.59), Dallas comes out winners in the category. The same can be said for the three-cone drill where the Cowboys average is 6.87 compared to the NFL average of 6.95. As far as the 20-yard shuttle, the Cowboys are right at the NFL average. Still, by looking at this group of guys, the word speed is important to the coaching staff.

Now, we shift our focus to the defensive line, which for the most part is a mixed bag of guys that folks are hoping to see improve. They’ve certainly got younger with the additions of guys like Taco Charlton, Maliek Collins, and David Irving. Let’s see how their numbers shook out compared to the NFL averages.

Position Player Age 40 Time 3-Cone 20-yard Shuttle
DE Taco Charlton 22 4.86 7.17 4.39
DE DeMarcus Lawrence 25 4.69 7.46 4.31
DE Benson Mayowa 25 4.73 7.05 4.26
DE Charles Tapper 23 4.59 DNP DNP
DE Damontre Moore 24 4.95 7.08 4.33
DL Tyrone Crawford 27 4.78 7.09 4.44
DL David Irving 23 4.84 7.27 4.52
DT Jordan Carrell 22 4.98 7.90 4.50
DT Maliek Collins 22 5.03 7.53 4.52
DT Stephen Paea 28 4.98 DNP DNP
DT Cedric Thornton 28 5.29 7.7 4.71
DT Joey Ivie 22 5.14 8.09 4.72
DL Average 24.3 4.91 7.43 4.47

At 4.91, the Cowboys are just a tad faster than the NFL average of 4.95. In the three-cone drill, the Cowboys again come in just a hair faster with a 7.434 versus the NFL average of 7.49. The Cowboys did much better though in the 20-yard shuttle with their 4.47 versus the NFL average of 4.57. Again, by the skin of their teeth, the Cowboys current stable of defensive linemen pull out the win here.

Lastly, we’ll take a look at the linebackers, who don’t get enough love but could get a huge boost in the debut of Jaylon Smith in 2017. Let’s take a look at how they play out against the average linebackers in the NFL:

Position Player Age 40 Time 3-Cone 20-yard Shuttle
LB Sean Lee 30 4.60 6.89 4.16
LB Jaylon Smith 21 4.44 DNP DNP
LB Anthony Hitchens 24 4.65 7.15 4.44
LB Damien Wilson 23 4.77 7.21 4.20
LB Kyle Wilber 28 4.64 7.83 4.43
LB Mark Nzeocha 27 4.56 DNP DNP
LB Average 25.5 4.61 7.27 4.31

It’s pretty hard to judge some speeds of these guys when they continuously have come into the league with various injuries that kept them from tests. With that said, the Cowboys’ 40 time of 4.61 edged out the NFL average at 4.72. However, the NFL average beat the Cowboys’ badly in the three-cone drill with a 7.13 versus Dallas’ 7.27. Oh well, you win some and you lose some but the Cowboys bounce back with the narrow victory in the 20-yard shuttle where Dallas owns the 4.31 versus the NFL average of 4.32.

We all know that statistics can be used to win almost any type of argument and are subjective to the writer putting together the article. Well, these statistics were taken from NFLDraftScout.com and the aforementioned article above. It’s also one thing to look at these charts and completely another to see these speeds translate to the field.

All of the many variables considered it’s pretty encouraging to see that not only are the Cowboys going to be young on defense but they’re looking to be a quick-strike defense. The need for speed is prevalent in many of the selections the Cowboys have made that have filled out this roster. One thing that the Cowboys’ defense has done over the past few years above all else is the hustle to the ball. It’ll be interesting to see if any of these numbers translate once the season kicks off.