It has been four years since the Dallas Cowboys have done well at forcing turnovers. And you need to get turnovers to have a strong turnover ratio. There is no question that turnovers make a major difference in who wins NFL games, so this is one area where a significant improvement by the Cowboys is likely to translate into the Cowboys winning more games than last year's 9-7 record.
Here is what the Cowboys have done the last five years in the takeaway/giveaway category, compared to the NFL leader each of those seasons.
Not since 2014 have the Cowboys gotten more than 10 interceptions, which is the main area where teams make hay in the turnover department. The leading number of fumble recoveries since 2013 has been 16 twice, 15 twice, and 14 once. Teams leading in interceptions, on the other hand, routinely get into the 20s.
Can this change in 2018? If the first two preseason games have any value - they probably don't - the Cowboys have so far forced and recovered 5 turnovers, and committed none.
In the Cincy game, Chidobe Awuzie made an amazing leaping interception.
The other turnover was a forced fumble by Taco Charlton chasing down a running back.
In the SF game, the Cowboys forced three turnovers. One was a Charles Tapper fumble recovery. It was hard to see how it occurred, but Tapper emerged from a pile with the ball. Joe Thomas intercepted a ball tipped at the line by a blitzing Kavon Frazier, while Duke Thomas intercepted a pass tipped at the line by Richard Ash.
So, of 5 turnovers, the two were tipped at the line, the defensive linemen forced two fumbles, and Chidobe Awuzie made a great play. Wait until David Irving returns if the Cowboys want more tipped passes.
People don't think Dallas has ball hawks in the back end. But if you have defensive linemen who can tip passes, or get strip sacks, linebackers fast enough to catch tipped balls, and opportunistic defensive backs, it's very possible Dallas could really increase the number of turnovers it collects.
Then all we need is for Dak Prescott to return to protecting the football like he did in 2016. The goal should be 30 or more forced turnovers, and 15 or fewer giveaways. If the Cowboys get to +10-15 in the turnover differential department, this could really help them to get to 11-13 wins, and back to the top of the NFC East.
It is by no means certain, but the pre-season at least has provided a positive start.