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Cowboys’ defensive snap counts: 2017 year-end totals

Who played this year on the Cowboys’ defense?

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the year-end totals of snap counts for the Dallas Cowboys 2017 defense.

Defensive Line

Player Pos Age Games Gm1 Gm2 Gm3 Gm4 Gm5 Gm6 Gm7 GM8 Gm9 Gm10 Gm11 Gm12 Gm13 Gm14 Gm15 Gm16 Total Season Percent
DeMarcus Lawrence DE 25 16 34 45 56 48 49 52 37 42 42 39 46 35 59 54 34 29 701 1044 67%
Maliek Collins DT 22 16 50 48 60 49 34 40 31 40 33 39 39 37 57 58 44 27 686 1044 66%
Tyrone Crawford DE 28 15 23 37 51 40 37 40 36 40 39 41 32 35 46 57 41 595 1044 57%
Taco Charlton DE 23 16 26 33 20 22 8 37 22 18 23 25 22 26 25 33 22 36 398 1044 38%
Benson Mayowa DE 26 14 29 40 31 35 23 27 19 26 23 36 26 41 3 22 381 1044 36%
David Irving DE/DT 24 8 45 36 36 44 47 40 48 41 337 1044 32%
Richard Ash DT 25 10 27 24 12 25 21 26 20 42 23 13 233 1044 22%
Brian Price DT 23 8 10 33 17 21 14 25 20 9 149 1044 14%
Stephen Paea DT 29 4 39 46 31 29 145 1044 14%
Lewis Neal 7 18 24 19 19 27 4 29 140 1044 13%
Datone Jones 4 21 25 36 35 117 1044 11%
Damontre Moore DE 25 3 26 21 11 58 1044 6%
Daniel Ross 3 8 18 30 56 1044 5%
Charles Tapper DE 24 2 11 25 36 1044 3%

DeMarcus Lawrence had a breakout year with 14.5 sacks, making All-Pro. He played all 16 games and led the team with 67% of the snaps.

Maliek Collins, who led the team in snaps last year, was just behind him. But Collins’ sacks dropped off from five to 2.5, and he got all of them in the first three weeks. It was a disappointing season for Collins.

Tyrone Crawford was third in snaps, and had four sacks versus 4.5 last year. Given his contract, 2018 may be his last year as a Cowboy.

David Irving was the second most productive lineman, and gave Lawrence a run for his money when he played. But he played only the eight games in the middle of the year, missing the first four on a suspension, and the last four with a concussion. He got seven sacks and was very disruptive. The Cowboys need him to play a full year in 2018.

Taco Charlton had an okay rookie year with three sacks in 362 snaps. After an offseason of strength work, he should show significant improvement in year two.

Benson Mayowa was a disappointment with only one sack, after he led the team with six in 2016. His contract makes him a prime target to be cut this offseason.

With Stephen Paea retiring, and Brian Price and David Irving getting hurt, the Cowboys had to rely on Richard Ash, Lewis Neal, Datone Jones, and Daniel Ross to patch up the middle of the line. None of them were on the opening day 53-man roster.

Overall, it was a year of progress for the line, with Lawrence and Irving establishing themselves as forces.

Next year could be even better, though a lot has to fall right. Randy Gregory needs to come back and give the Cowboys an edge rusher with speed. David Irving needs to play 16 games. And the Cowboys need to retain Lawrence.

Linebackers

Player Pos Age Games Gm1 Gm2 Gm3 Gm4 Gm5 Gm6 Gm7 Gm8 Gm9 Gm10 Gm11 Gm12 Gm13 Gm14 Gm15 Gm16 Total Season Percent
Sean Lee LB 31 11 56 77 75 49 57 54 8 66 66 57 56 621 1044 59%
Jaylon Smith LB 22 16 36 68 54 69 33 32 17 17 50 36 38 44 30 20 14 18 576 1044 55%
Anthony Hitchens LB 25 12 50 41 26 28 62 49 66 57 59 32 40 35 545 1044 52%
Damien Wilson LB 24 16 17 23 16 27 11 18 11 19 36 27 34 16 21 12 23 11 322 1044 31%
Justin Durant LB 32 7 2 1 32 48 27 25 24 159 1044 15%
Kyle Wilber LB 28 8 3 2 13 7 1 4 8 1 39 1044 4%

The story this year was Sean Lee’s injuries, and how badly the Cowboys defense played in his absence. He led the linebackers with 59% of the snaps, but that’s far below what he did in 2016. Anthony Hitchens also missed four games and finished third in snaps with 52%. Between them was Jaylon Smith, who played all 16 games, but was often a liability. Not only was he often physically overpowered, but he also made mental mistakes, especially in run defense. He got better as the season went on, but the Cowboys might wonder what kind of player he’ll be next season.

The Cowboys need to retain Hitchens this offseaon.

Secondary

Player Pos Age Games Gm1 Gm2 Gm3 Gm4 Gm5 Gm6 Gm7 Gm8 Gm9 Gm10 Gm11 Gm12 Gm13 Gm14 Gm15 Gm16 Total Season Percent
Byron Jones S 25 16 56 76 81 61 60 62 56 57 58 64 56 45 48 40 43 45 908 1044 87%
Jeff Heath S 26 15 56 77 78 55 49 59 43 47 45 60 56 77 65 52 59 878 1044 84%
Anthony Brown CB 24 16 50 77 81 69 59 60 58 56 61 62 63 8 27 47 21 44 843 1044 81%
Jourdan Lewis CB 22 15 65 48 56 48 58 51 44 37 43 40 24 78 49 53 52 746 1044 71%
Orlando Scandrick CB 30 11 9 69 69 58 58 58 56 56 63 67 51 614 1044 59%
Xavier Woods S 22 15 34 43 16 21 15 37 24 32 64 27 46 63 53 28 46 549 1044 53%
Chidobe Awuzie CB 22 9 38 5 9 5 53 58 53 56 31 308 1044 30%
Kavon Frazier S 23 14 18 10 22 22 7 1 1 13 11 21 35 27 18 14 220 1044 21%
Nolan Carroll CB 30 2 56 25 81 1044 8%
Ben Benwikere CB 26 2 4 6 10 1044 1%

This was the year of massive turnover in the Cowboys secondary. Out went Brandon Carr, Barry Church, Mo Claiborne, and J.J. Wilcox, and in came Jeff Heath, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, and Chidobe Awuzie.

The problem was that Awuzie, who was a dynamic player when he finally played, missed almost the entire year with hamstring problems. He got meaningful snaps in only six games.

Jourdan Lewis also got a late start due to lingering hamstring issues, but did manage to play 71% of the snaps. Anthony Brown led the cornerbacks with 81% of the snaps, but was often the weakest link in the secondary.

Xavier Woods got 53% of the snaps, which was a higher number than J.J. Wilcox. But the Cowboy missed Barry Church’s steady tackling. Jeff Heath looked underwhelming most of the year, but got 84% of the snaps. Kavon Frazier finally got a chance late in the year, and provided some much needed hitting, but he might still be a liability in pass coverage.

Next year, the young cornerbacks should take over, and with Scandrick and Brown, it could be an improved squad. Where the Cowboys need more help is at safety.

Special Teams

Here are the snaps.

Player Pos Games Gm1 Gm2 Gm3 Gm4 Gm5 Gm6 Gm7 Gm8 Gm9 Gm10 Gm11 Gm12 Gm13 Gm14 Gm15 Gm16 Total
Damien Wilson LB 16 19 27 27 29 22 19 25 21 20 23 19 22 23 20 21 18 355
Kyle Wilber LB 16 19 27 27 29 22 18 24 21 20 23 19 22 22 20 21 18 352
Rod Smith RB 15 17 19 23 20 16 16 19 17 15 19 13 16 18 16 16 260
Kavon Frazier S 15 18 19 23 19 16 19 17 15 19 13 18 19 15 17 13 260
Keith Smith FB 16 6 19 17 18 16 14 17 14 15 19 13 17 17 13 13 17 245
Jeff Heath S 15 17 20 22 20 22 19 5 17 9 13 17 16 15 15 17 244
Byron Jones S 16 14 12 17 16 13 14 15 11 6 8 8 14 20 17 21 2 208
Xavier Woods S 16 13 17 14 20 17 11 19 15 15 16 12 16 6 5 5 2 203
Geoff Swaim TE 15 12 15 18 14 11 10 12 12 15 11 11 13 11 12 15 192
Anthony Brown CB 16 11 15 16 17 12 8 13 11 8 6 8 14 10 12 15 9 185
James Hanna TE 16 6 16 11 12 13 6 8 8 11 11 11 8 7 7 6 9 150
Ben Benwikere CB 12 12 8 16 13 15 12 10 14 15 9 12 9 145
Ryan Switzer WR 15 8 10 11 11 10 6 9 6 8 10 6 8 8 10 8 129
Noah Brown WR 13 11 6 9 7 7 8 10 6 6 10 8 13 17 118

I eliminated anyone with fewer than 100 snaps. Kyle Wilber is a free agent and may not be back. James Hanna may not still be worth his contract, and Ben Benwikere isn’t likely to return. But everyone else should be back.

The biggest issue on special teams this year was the fall-off by Dan Bailey. He missed several games with a groin pull, then started missing field goals after returning. Hopefully an offseason will allow him to heal and return to his normal automatic form.