It used to be that the Dallas Cowboys used their offense to protect their defense. The Cowboys ground game would keep the Cowboys defense from having to defend too many plays, because it used to be that the defense was capable of breaking down at any moment. In the past, Dallas was more likely to win a game 35-31 than it was to win one 20-13. It looks like that’s no longer the case. The Dallas defense is capable of winning games.
As we praise the play of Dak Prescott in the win over the Giants, we need to keep it in perspective. He only threw for 160 yards on the day, last week he threw for 170. He did have a much better QB rating compared to last week (95.4 vs. 81.1) and he found the endzone on a pass this week, but it’s not like he was suddenly Aaron Rodgers. The running game did better, but Ezekiel Elliott still didn’t surpass 100 yards and he hasn’t been dominant yet, although he put together some fine runs and a 4.4 yards per carry average. He also found the endzone. The offense did enough to win, but only because the Cowboys defense was winning the day.
The Cowboys defense is growing up before our eyes. Over the last five games of the 2017 season they gave up an average of 12.4 points a game. So far in 2018, they are giving up 14.5 points per game. You are going to win a lot of games with those numbers. They have combined for nine sacks over the first two games of 2018. In the Giants game, six different players had the six sacks, with Taco Charlton getting a sack, a fumble recovery and two tackles for loss along with two quarterback hits. He’s just one representative of a defense that is maturing.
Jaylon Smith led the team with 10 tackles, one tackle for loss and one soul-satisfying wallop of Eli Manning. First-round pick Leighton Vander Esch had seven tackles as he starts to work himself into the lineup. The run defense smothered Saquon Barkley who had 11 carries for 28 yards, a 2.5 yards per carry average. The pass defense shut down Odell Beckham who only had four catches for 51 yards. Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones have been doing amazing work at the outside corner positions. Kris Richard has brought a swagger to this secondary, and he seems to have injected a penchant for blitzing into the defense. The Cowboys had five of their six sacks through blitzes.
The Cowboys defense is legit. And they don’t even have all of their pieces yet. Randy Gregory has hardly played so far in 2018. David Irving should be back in Week 5, and we know what a difference he can make when he is in a game. They also haven’t had Xavier Woods available on the back-end.
The Cowboys are still led by DeMarcus Lawrence and Sean Lee on defense, but it’s not just about them anymore. They now have plenty of help all around them. This is a young, hungry unit that has talent. It’s taken a while, but the Cowboys defense is finally coming of age. If the offense regains its former abilities, things could be very interesting with the team from Dallas.