The Cowboys’ defense has arguably been one of the elite units across the National Football League this season. Led by a stud pass rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence that puts fear into quarterbacks, two young linebackers who are balling, and a secondary coached by Kris Richard, the Cowboys have been able to limit opposing offenses nearly every week — even suffocating Drew Brees and company just a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately, the defense — and the team in general, to be fair — had a lot of trouble against the Colts. Andrew Luck was in a comfortable pocket for the majority of the game, the Indianapolis run game was able to get going, and the Cowboys failed to get off of the field time and time again. It was the last thing that many were expecting, to say the least.
Now, the Cowboys have the challenge of limiting a Tampa Bay offense that has showed signs of exploding at any moment. No, the Bucs are not a very good football team; however the offense has the personnel capable of taking the top off a defense and putting up points on the scoreboard.
Regardless if it has been Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, this Bucs offense has had many games in which the opposing defense could not keep them out of the end zone. First, there was the month of “Fitz Magic”, where the veteran journeyman quarterback was putting up video game-like numbers week-after-week, as Tampa Bay dropped 48 points on the Saints, 27 against both the Eagles and Steelers, and then 29 on Atlanta.
Both Fitzpatrick and Winston have had their ups and downs this season — both have been benched at different times this season — but a cast of weapons that includes the speedy DeSean Jackson, stud tight end O.J. Howard, and the freakish Mike Evans, allows whoever is behind center to potentially have a big game on any given Sunday. The challenge for the Cowboys — a team that saw the Colts have their way offensively last week and the Eagles catch fire in the fourth quarter the week before — will be to find a way to prevent Tampa from hitting on the big plays.
Jackson, who has missed the previous three games but is expected to suit up on Sunday, is averaging over 18 yards per reception in addition to four scores through the air this season. Howard and Evans have each recorded five touchdown catches while also averaging over 16 yards per catch on the year.
The Bucs are first in the NFL in passing offense, third in the league in total offense, and have recorded the third most first downs this season — only trialing the Chiefs and Rams. Winston and Fitzpatrick have combined to throw for 4,464 yards and 31 touchdowns through the air in 2018. Needless to say, this is an offense that can strike fast.
On the flip side, the Bucs have also been turnover prone — throwing for a league-high 25 interceptions thus far this season. The next closest are the Bills, with 20. Tampa Bay is willing to risk an interception while throwing downfield, hoping their receivers come down with the ball en route to lighting up the scoreboard. The Cowboys are not exactly known to be great of creating turnovers, but Sunday should give this defense some opportunities for Byron Jones and co.
I love the fact that Byron Jones is one of the most athletic people on the planet, a starter in the NFL and a Pro Bowl corner — and his brothers are roasting him because he doesn’t have any INTs.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 19, 2018
Family, man pic.twitter.com/TNhEprp5zK
The Cowboys, unfortunately, could be without slot corner Anthony Brown, as the third-year defensive back is dealing with hand and back injuries that have limited him and kept him out of practice this week.
While last week’s loss wasn’t all on the defense — after all, the offense failed to put a single point on the scoreboard — you can bet that this defense has a chip on its shoulder. This is a unit that can play with any offense in football, so there is no doubt that Jaylon Smith and the squad will want to make a statement come Sunday afternoon.