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Position battleground (defense): Cowboys vs. Titans head-to-head breakdown for defensive positions

A positional head-to-head breakdown of the Week 17 matchup between the Cowboys and Titans to find the strengths and weaknesses of each defensive position.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Previously we broke down the offense for this week’s upcoming game for the Dallas Cowboys, now we dive back into the position battleground, this time looking at how the defensive positions and special teams stack up against each other.


What looks like a defense that is slowing down at the wrong time is starting to leave Cowboys fans in a panic. In the last three games, the Cowboy’s defense has allowed an average of 424 yards, the second-most. To add on top of that, the Cowboys have seemingly lost their brilliance on defending third down. In the last three games they have allowed the second-highest third-down percentage. Ironically the area of defense people had the most concern with is not really the problem. The run defense has been pretty good, even last week against the Philadelphia Eagles they only allowed 89 rush yards total. The issue has been pressure beyond Micah Parsons. The last two games has seen an average of 13 pressures and zero sacks from the entire defensive line group, that’s exceptionally meager at this stage. Going against an offensive line that allows the fifth-most sacks should be a good game to make a further evaluation of this defensive line, and from there know how much to panic heading to the playoffs.

The Tennessee Titans are pretty good against the run. In one part it’s because they have some solid inside defensive tackles. The other part is also due to teams’ offenses being able to dominate so easily in the passing game. In the last three games, the Titans have allowed an average of 68 rush yards per game, that’s the fewest in the league. But they allow the third-most passing yards in that same time. The pass rush has been getting plenty of pressure up front, it’s just the team’s inability to play in coverage. On third down they rank fourth-worst in stopping the conversion on pass plays. The team also ranks ninth-worst in turnover differential with -3 and is second-worst in forced fumbles. Their defensive concerns are only about to get harder as their star defender Jeffery Simmons may sit out due to an ankle injury.

Win: Cowboys

NFL: DEC 11 Texans at Cowboys Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


Rice/Jones/Gibbens vs Parsons/Barr/Clark

Micah Parsons just continues to be trouble for offenses. Parsons now leads the league in pressures, although people will complain about the lack of sacks. But his sacks will come, as long as he continues to be disruptive in the backfield and force incompletions and errant throws, then he’s doing his job. Anthony Barr was able to get a fumble recovery last week, but still struggles with some of the quicker coverage assignments. But he’s been adequate so far when asked not to play in coverage the last two weeks in Leighton Vander Esch’s absence.

The Titans linebacker corp has really been hit hard by injuries this year. This week with Bud Dupree, Zack Cunningham and Dylan Cole unknown to play, then their already depleted depth at the position will be stretched. They already lost Chance Campbell at the start of the season and recently placed David Long on injured reserve. This means they have to play down roster players like Monty Rice. Backup players look to start this week like Joe Jones, and they may even have to start UDFA Jack Gibbens.

Win: Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images


It’s right here that’s the biggest concern on defense for the Cowboys. In the last three games, the Cowboys are second-worst in passing yards allowed. It’s not the team is playing badly per se, it’s the team’s depth due to injuries that have gotten them to this position. Nashon Wright didn’t play too badly last week when he got his chance. He broke up an important pass and made every tackle that came his way. A much better effort than his previous counterpart. DaRon Bland got targeted a lot last week and for a rookie to have to deal with that he held his own. He came away with yet another interception, he is now second in the league in interceptions and has shown he can play both from the slot and as an outside corner. Jayron Kearse also got in to intercept a pass and deflected another. But this unit had a tough task last week against a talented wide receiver group.

For Tennessee, it’s their defensive backs that are giving this team the most headaches. This area of the team has also been hit hard by injuries. They have missing parts that have been sent to IR but also have players that may miss this week’s game. Amani Hooker, Kristian Fulton and Josh Thompson may all miss this week. Players they have left to play like Roger McCreary are allowing a rating of 116.3 when targeted. This unit doesn’t get many interceptions and has allowed the third-worst number of passing touchdowns this year.

Win: Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images


KaVontae Turpin will sooner or later go all the way on a punt return. But teams knowing of his ability will have to be scheming going forward to keep the ball away from him. Turpin outscores his Titan’s counterparts on both punt returns and kickoff returns.

Brett Maher leads the league this year in points scored. He’s now on 128 individual points scored, three more than Justin Tucker who ranks second. Randy Bullock has only 15 field goal attempts and has missed three.

Win: Cowboys


Which team has the better defense?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    Dallas Cowboys
    (261 votes)
  • 7%
    Tennessee Titans
    (22 votes)
283 votes total Vote Now

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