The term “triplets” was created to describe the legendary offensive force composed of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin. Collectively, they were the engine driving the Dallas Cowboys dynasty of the early 1990s. Now the term has been appropriated across the league. Mostly it has been used to describe the same combination of offensive skill players. A recent example was put up at NFL.com, ranking the current trio of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper as the twelfth best in the league, which is respectable. But in his recent article also at the league’s website, Bucky Brooks decided to apply the concept to the defense.
Defensively, the top trios not only have the potential to stifle passing games with a ferocious pass rush and/or airtight coverage on the perimeter, but they’re capable of wreaking havoc on opponents with their collective speed, quickness and athleticism. Sparked by a triumvirate of dynamic defenders, defensive coordinators freely attack the opposition with a variety of pressure tactics that frustrate quarterbacks, suffocate perimeter playmakers and overwhelm offensive linemen.
This ranking should be very pleasing to Cowboys fans, as he had Dallas coming in second behind the Los Angeles Chargers with Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Derwin James.
2) DE DeMarcus Lawrence, LB Jaylon Smith and LB Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys: Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard have put their stamp on the Cowboys’ defense with their lofty standard of play. The duo not only expects each and every defender to run to the ball with reckless abandon, but they demand that they do it while giving maximum effort on every snap. Lawrence is not only standard bearer on the defensive line with his non-stop motor and unremitting spirit, but he is a high-level performer boasting 25 sacks over the past two seasons. Smith and LVE match No. 90’s intensity with a wolfpack mentality that allows the young, energetic defense to flex on opponents through the unit’s collective speed, quickness and athleticism. With the Cowboys in position to potentially make a Super Bowl run sparked by their defense, we could see this unit vault to the top of the charts by the end of the season.
It is not only pleasing to see these players get recognized, it is interesting in that Dallas has a unique set of triplets. Of the five units Brooks put at the top of the league, it is the only one that does not include a defensive back. (He also had the Houston Texans in his honorable mentions with a DE and two LBs.)
Given his effectiveness last season, it could be argued that Byron Jones could have been part of the trio, but that leaves the basically unanswerable question of who to leave out between Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. At least in my mind, it also seems to acknowledge that Smith and Vander Esch are both far from liabilities in pass coverage. Another thing that enters in is just how good DeMarcus Lawrence is against the run, a highly unusual strength for someone whose main role is to rush the passer off the edge. Combined with the linebackers, it helps give the Cowboys a tremendous rushing defense, even though things fell off a bit late in last season, and went completely off the rails in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Still, this is a great foundation for the Dallas defense. With the anticipated improvement and depth on the line, great things could indeed be coming.
As always, we have to take all such preseason rankings with a grain of salt. They are mostly backwards-looking. Essentially, they are projecting past performance into this season, and we all know that does not always work out. Still, there is nothing to indicate that the Cowboys’ defensive triplets should regress in any way, and could even improve, although given how well they played last season, that would be hard to do.
And if the offensive trio is at least as good as they were seen in the other article, then both sides of the ball could be very strong for the Cowboys. A lot depends on how well Kellen Moore does in his rookie year as offensive coordinator. (You may have heard that before.) It also will be influenced by just how much improvement we see out of Dak Prescott, and all the early signs are that it will be significant.
If you have top ten or so cores for both the offense and defense, you should be able to win a lot of games. It looks like that could well come to pass for the Cowboys. They also have what appears to be outstanding depth all over the roster and a real hope that the offensive line will return to the top tier as well.
Training camp is now just days away. We will learn a lot more about this team then. But it is not a bad thing to have so many arrows pointing in the right direction.