It might be time to check the doomsday clock because this defense looks that good. Through two games, the Dallas defense has limited their opponents to 29 total points and only given up an average of 274 yards each game. That’s good for the fourth-best overall defense in the league.
In addition to that, the passing defense has significantly improved, which can largely be chalked up to new defensive backs coach Kris Richard. The secondary has allowed 366 passing yards over these two games, fifth-fewest in the NFL, and opposing quarterbacks are completing 71.4% of their passes for an average of 6.3 yards per attempt. That lines up with what Richard brings over from Seattle, schematically: playing close to receivers so that if they do make the catch, there isn’t much to be gained afterwards.
The Cowboys defense has only two takeaways so far, a fumble recovery in each game, which offers an area to improve upon. However, the unit is second in the entire NFL in sacks with nine. Six of those came Sunday night, which is impressive enough on its own, but the way in which they came was even better. Each of the Cowboys’ starters on the defensive line - DeMarcus Lawrence, Antwaun Woods, Tyrone Crawford, and Taco Charlton - earned a sack, but linebacker Damien Wilson and safety Kavon Frazier also brought down the quarterback. Another linebacker, Jaylon Smith, had a sack against the Panthers as well.
Damien Wilson is real athletic. Great burst to close on the QB and force the fumble, which was recovered by Taco pic.twitter.com/VGCIgeWtkf— John Owning (@JohnOwning) September 17, 2018
The increased usage of blitzes by this defense is promising, and even more so is the fact that they have nine sacks without pass rushing studs Randy Gregory and David Irving. Those sack numbers should only get better as those two come back in the coming weeks, and takeaways will likely follow.
And contextualizing it all makes this more impressive. Byron Jones converted from safety to cornerback, and some were skeptical about the adjustment he’d have to make; Chidobe Awuzie is only a second-year player and might regress; the safeties were already supposedly bad and the best of the bad safeties, Xavier Woods, went down with an injury. And yet, Frazier has stepped up big time, and Awuzie and Jones have been almost impossible to throw against.
Now, it’s important to pump the brakes on this a little bit. After all, it is only two games into a long season, and it’s too early to make any real generalizations from things like defensive rankings. However, the Cowboys’ defense has been a top five unit through these two games after showing that exact kind of potential in the preseason. Maybe things will change, maybe the bottom will fall out, but for now.... the Cowboys have a top five defense in the NFL. And fans should take comfort in that fact.