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

A positional head-to-head breakdown of the Wild Card matchup between the Cowboys and Buccaneers to find the strengths and weaknesses of each defensive position.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

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.


The scoreline last week definitely didn’t reflect the skill and ability the Cowboy’s defense was playing with against Washington. The final score and narrative that followed that the defense couldn’t stop a third-string quarterback was not altogether factual. The defense concluded Week 18 with 16 pressures, three sacks, one interception and allowed the opposing offense to only convert three of 14 attempts on third-down.

The Cowboy’s defense last week was literally stuck between a rock and hard place when both the offense and special teams flat-lined, leaving the defense to do all the heavy lifting. Special team fumbles as well as a short punt put the defense on short fields. The offense failed to maintain drives meaning the defense had to regularly return back to the field. The rotational line players played sufficiently, creating plenty of pressure up front and even finishing for the sacks.

Chauncey Golston played well and produced six defensive stops playing up and down the line. The previous few weeks Golston has played relatively competently and has been pretty useful at preventing the run. It was good to witness Osa Odighizuwa have a good game and contend for a sack along with Sam Williams, who also acquired another notch in the sack column. Johnathan Hankins looks set to return. He’ll really be required this week after the Cowboy’s underwhelming execution at stopping the run during the last meeting against Tampa Bay.

For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they boast a problematic front line. But both Carl Nassib and Vita Vea have a potential to miss this game with injuries. If they do this could be a significant consequence to watch for as they are essential in what the team does in both run and passing downs. Ifeadi Odenigbo and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka have both been putting pressure on quarterbacks at a high rate this year. Should Nassib miss time they have Anthony Nelson who is second in team sacks.

Win: Push (based on both team’s health concerns)

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images


David/White vs Parsons/Barr/Clark

Leighton Vander Esch has been at practice this week, and his availability for this game is absolutely critical. It’s no surprise that with both Hankins and LVE out, the defense has struggled with stopping the run. With both defenders out the Cowboy’s run defense has allowed nearly a full yard per attempt in that time. Micah Parsons, even when he looks fatigued and worn out, still hustles. Parsons ruled the team in pressures and combined for a sack, while the entirety of that time looking like he just needs some respite.

Both Lavonte David and Devin White for the Buccaneers had reserved days last week. They combined for five tackles and nothing more. That’s no reflection though on both of their talents as they have had commendable seasons. Needless to say, it’s clear David is beginning to get long in the tooth and those indications of years playing are exhibiting themselves. Devin White is a solid jack-of-all-trades linebacker, but he can be subject to a few missed tackles a game. Beyond these two linebackers on the Buccaneer’s roster, there is not really much to talk about.

Win: Cowboys

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


One positive impact from the Washington Commanders game was a chance to peek at Treyvon Mullen. Thankfully we know precisely what he is now. He looked to have fine levels of athleticism and was able to keep with his receiver, keeping close and in the receiver’s hip pocket. But all too many times he was incapable of tracking down the ball or getting his head round to spot its delivery. At this phase, it looks as though the outside position is now owned by Nashon Wright unless new signee Xavier Rhodes gets some run. Whoever it is will really need to step up this week confronting the likes of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Both have both posted 1,000-yard seasons. The good news is rookie DaRon Bland looks healthy enough to play and the fright he gave everyone last week doesn’t look to be a concern. Malik Hooker scooping up an interception last week was good to observe and he’s outperformed expectations this season.

In the last three games Tampa has given up the eighth-most passing yards in the league. In that same time, they have also allowed 1.7 passing touchdowns per game, the tenth-most. One factor of that is the lack of pressure up front and not obtaining sacks, but it is also due to the defensive backs failing to stay physical with their receiver. What makes things even more problematic with this group is the lengthy list of injuries that has plagued them. Carlton Davis, Mike Edwards and Logan Ryan all have possibilities to miss this week’s game. Anthony Chesley is still on injured reserve but is near to returning. Jamel Dean has allowed a 50% completion percentage which isn’t bad but has also permitted a team-high of five touchdowns.

Antoine Winfield Jr is the only additional name that looks to be able to put some stopping ability against the Cowboys’ receiver corps, anticipate seeing him cover from a number positions on the field.

Win: Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images


The Cowboys special team unit last week was anything but that. KaVontae Turpin fumbled a punt. Bryan Anger fumbled a punt. Even Brett Maher, who’s been so dependable this year, managed to miss an extra point. But that was last week and let’s look forward.

Comparing the two return specialists, Turpin has 29 returns for 303 yards. Tampa has Deven Thompkins that has six attempts for 61 yards. On kickoffs, Turpin outscores Thompkins’ total yards and average yards per return.

Brett Maher completes the season as the league’s top scorer. He missed three field goals all year and boasts a 91% field goal percentage. Ryan Succop missed seven field goals and has an 81% success rate.

Punting is the only unit the Buccaneers win in special teams. Jake Camarda has more punt yards, a further average punt per attempt and a longer hang time than Anger. Not that Anger has had a poor year either, so to have out-kicked him is impressive.

Win: Cowboys


Which team has the better defense?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    Dallas Cowboys
    (362 votes)
  • 18%
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    (82 votes)
444 votes total Vote Now

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