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In the trenches: Cowboys defensive line underperformed & offensive line better than expected

The Cowboys can’t always rely on Micah Parsons to be on the defensive line to help make plays.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

On paper, the Dallas Cowboys defensive line had a great opportunity to capitalize on the injury woes and missing offensive line players Tampa Bay has endured in the offseason. Despite the Cowboys own issues with injuries to the offensive line and wide receiver corps, Tampa Bay came out on top with a 19-3 victory, with most of the points coming from kicker Ryan Succop. This keeps Tom Brady undefeated against the Cowboys and that was likely the last ever game we will see Brady face the Cowboys.

Defensive Line

Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense did their homework, despite the defense keeping Tampa Bay from scoring a touchdown until the third quarter. The Cowboys gave up a total of 362 offensive yards. The quick screen passes to Chris Godwin damaged the Cowboys defensive line leaving them flustered at times, while Leonard Fournette, with his 21 carries averaging 6.1 yards per carry, was utilized at the right time and situation.

Looking back at the film, the Cowboys defensive line interior had a tough time getting off their blocks a majority of the game. Quinton Bohanna got the double-team treatment throughout the game. Osa Odighizuwa had some success recording two tackle for loss. Neville Gallimore did not seem to get into second gear throughout the game, only recording one assisted tackle, and Trysten Hill struggled the majority of the game, but did record one tackle for loss. One of the keys to stop Brady was to put pressure on him up the middle and force him out the pocket. The Cowboys failed to do so.

On the edge the Cowboys had difficulties getting to Brady; the only player to do that was Micah Parsons, showing he is picking up from where he left off, and showing why he was voted last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Cowboys can’t rely on Parsons on the line of scrimmage every time to make a play. They need the defensive line unit to step up.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Demarcus Lawrence did record a tackle for loss, but struggled getting into the backfield when Tampa was utilizing the passing game, as did Dorance Armstrong and rookie Sam Williams. The Cowboys had little impact on the pass rush on the edge, and the only person that had success was Parsons.

Overall, keeping Brady under 20 points and to only one touchdown is a win for the defense overall, but for the team it doesn’t produce the actual victory because the offense struggled to get the ball in the end zone. Brady found ways to take out the defensive line with quick passes and the run game.

This is something Dan Quinn and Aden Durde can to take forward as they play Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Offensive Line

Dallas’ injury woes were bad enough before losing Connor McGovern on the opening drive of the game after only featuring in eight snaps. He was replaced by Matt Farniok. We did get to see some good work from McGovern blocking DE William Gholston, opening the gap through the middle of the field for a seven-yard gain from Ezekiel Elliot.

Terrance Steele struggled throughout the game, particularly on pass protection, and got the lowest grade on the offensive line. He was getting pushed back beyond the line of scrimmage and forcing Dak Prescott to leave the pocket on multiple occasions. He also jumped offside multiple times and got flagged for offensive holding.

Zack Martin, proving once more why he is one of the top right guards in the NFL, looked comfortable and solid both in the run blocking and pass protection, but it feels like now Martin is having to do double the effort in support of Tyler Biadasz. The snap delivery from Biadiasz was probably the most solid we have seen. But it looks like Biadasz is still having some issues organizing the rest of the line.

With the very limited time practicing at left tackle, Tyler Smith impressed, but the mistakes he made, in conjunction with Farniok, cost the Cowboys as they ended up seeing Dak Prescott injured and will be out between 6-8 weeks.

With Connor McGovern injured and Matt Farniok replacing him, Farniok did have moments of good blocking but the concern of the left guard position is still lingering as the Tampa Bay defense took advantage of Farniok during the game.

The concerns with the offensive line are still the communication and continuity. The team had plays where the tackles would focus inside, helping on the double team when it was not needed, thus leaving the defensive ends a free shot on Prescott (Anthony Nelson sack). Also getting set and knowing the snap count is an issue, like Steele getting flagged for offside by jumping too quickly, and Tyler Smith reacting too slowly.

Overall the run blocking was working and Zeke was getting 5.2 yards per carry average on 10 attempts. Why the team stepped away from the run game only Kellen Moore knows. The whole game in pass protection was good for the majority of the game, but the continuity among the offensive line and basic mistakes appeared and resulted in the Buccaneers getting four sacks and three tackles for loss in the backfield. But overall, it wasn’t the disaster on the offensive line that many predicted.

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