[Well, we have completed the improvement series, so let’s see what the results for each position group were. Understandably, we know that real improvement will show up once the season actually begins. However, the question can still be answered because, in some areas, you can see the Cowboys really tried to improve that area versus others where it’s more of the same.
Here’s how the BTB community felt with the Cowboys’ offseason approach to improving their defense from top to bottom:]
Analysis: Where most of these vote tallies were close, this one caused little debate in the BTB community. Overwhelming support for the Cowboys’ moves in the secondary was the cry heard loud and clear. We know how impressive Anthony Brown was in 2016. Orlando Scandrick is their feisty leader at the position. The improvement starts with Nolan Carroll, an underrated and possibly underappreciated player. If Bryan Broaddus thinks he’s an upgrade athletically over Brandon Carr then maybe they have something there. Of course, the Cowboys hit cornerback three times in the draft with Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Marquez White. We’ve heard a lot of positivity about Awuzie and he’s been moving around in their scheme.
Lewis may not be the biggest at 5’10 but he’s athletic and boasts good length with the ability to use his gifts. We know it’s just college but 42 passes defended was darn good as was his 23.3 opposing passer rating last season. There’s a lot of youth to unpack here but it’s a welcomed change from the secondary they’re replacing.
Analysis: Here’s more overwhelming support for the defensive ends as they saw some movement in the offseason. Look, this is not asking what their final sack numbers will be or anything like that. This shows that the Cowboys were committed to improving the talent level and they drafted a first-round pass rusher. Taco Charlton deserved to be drafted at the end of the first round. BTB is also very excited about Damontre Moore, who will likely get four extra weeks to prove his worth with David Irving’s suspension.
There is also the debut of Charles Tapper to look forward to as he’s healthy and ready after spending his rookie season on IR. Demarcus Lawrence is in a contract year. Benson Mayowa finished last season strong and led the team in sacks. For Marinelli, they may finally have the right rotation in place to attack offenses and they were the top team in sacks to close December last season.
Analysis: There are few reasons BTB sees improvement here and it starts with Maliek Collins’ second year at his position. He’s the closest thing to a “war daddy” that they have and five sacks as a rookie were outstanding. Stephen Paea is a more durable Terrell McClain but a little less athletic though his best years were in Marinelli’s scheme. Tyrone Crawford’s potential move back to 3-tech would give the Cowboys a brutal one-two punch. Cedric Thornton has another year to show he’s not a disappointment and the Cowboys also drafted two guys. Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell will look to battle it out for a position similar to Jack Crawford (departed in free agency). All in all, the rotation at tackle is solid.
Analysis: This poll took place before the news of Damien Wilson’s aggravated assault with a deadly weapon arrest. Still, that doesn’t change much here for BTB because it’s all about Jaylon Smith. With the All-Pro Sean Lee at weak side linebacker, Smith would be in a perfect position. The positivity is at a fever pitch with Jaylon and when he plays, the roof is going to blow off the arena. They also have Anthony Hitchens who has been a steady contributor for three years. Perhaps their best weapon at linebacker is the position coach Matt Eberflus, who has routinely worked magic with his roster.
Analysis: Barry Church’s departure is going to be tough but the Cowboys truly believe Jeff Heath is a playmaker in waiting. Byron Jones doesn’t get enough credit due to his lack of interceptions but the Cowboys don’t necessarily use him as such. Jones saved a lot of games with his ability to contend on the back end. The guys closer to the ball are usually the ones that will get those interception opportunities. Speaking of that, the selection of Xavier Woods is a big drive to this vote with his 14 interceptions in three seasons. Just for insurance, Dallas picked up veteran Robert Blanton. Heath will be asked to step into Church’s shoes and for what he may lack in starting experience, he’s certainly earned the right to this opportunity.