The Dallas Cowboys have one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL in Dan Quinn. Any sort of criticism of Quinn tends to invite some pushback. Given the posts that they occupy, Dak Prescott and Mike McCarthy are often the targets of vitriol (no one is saying criticism is not warranted there at times) and as a result some people tend to escape harm’s grasp.
Dan Quinn has earned an enormous benefit of the doubt during his tenure in Dallas, but this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business and as of late Quinn’s group has been a bit suspect. That cannot be the case on Monday night.
We need to see the proper Dan Quinn defense from the Cowboys on Monday night
The Cowboys play a game on Monday night and happen to do so against a very good offense. According to our friends at FTN Fantasy, the Chargers currently rank fifth in Offensive DVOA. Unsurprisingly, L.A. ranked fifth in Offensive EPA/Play (shout out rbsdm) entering Week 6. Keep in mind that the Chargers were on their bye in Week 5.
None of this would seem to be a problem for a Cowboys defense that ranks eighth in defensive DVOA and fourth in Defensive EPA/Play entering Week 6, but does anybody really feel like Dallas’ rankings across the whole of the season are representative of who they are right now? And that’s not even considering injuries (we know Leighton Vander Esch will spend time on IR as an example) that are now an issue as well.
FTN Fantasy has weekly DVOA data available and looking at the Cowboys numbers on defense shows what we already know, in three games the defense was wonderful while in two they were stinkers (the more negative the number the better).
Dallas Cowboys Defensive DVOA by Week
- Week 1 at New York Giants: -54.9%
- Week 2 vs. New York Jets: -39.2%
- Week 3 at Arizona Cardinals: 41.8%
- Week 4 vs. New England Patriots: -43%
- Week 5 at San Francisco 49ers: 19.8%
Again, it is not shocking to see that things took a turn for this group beginning three weeks ago. While Dallas ranks fourth in overall Defensive EPA/Play this season, they rank 21st if we look just at Weeks 3-5.
The sample size is still really small even if we look at the regular season as a whole to this point, and it obviously shrinks even more so if we isolate certain weeks. But it is concerning to consider that the mighty Dan Quinn defense has looked rather mortal since people started putting out their Halloween decorations.
This is why concern (criticism if you want to call it that) around Quinn is fair right now. There are problems in a lot of areas with the Cowboys, but the defense is supposed to be a reliable hallmark. And what is troubling is that we are starting to see that while they have no problem dominating groups, it looks like they are doing so against teams near the bottom of the league offensively and just them.
Consider the overall landscape of the league from an Offensive EPA/Play standpoint entering Week 6.
The three teams that Quinn’s group handled with ease comprise 60% of the bottom 5 teams. As you can see there is clearly no shame in not being able to stop the league-leading San Francisco 49ers, but with relation to this week what is particularly concerning is that the Chargers are significantly closer to the San Fran side of the spectrum.
Narrative hangs in the balance this week given that Kellen Moore is piloting the Chargers group to this level; however, while Mike McCarthy will bear the brunt of that, it is Dan Quinn who is actually being charged with limiting him. It would stand to reason that he might not be able to do so.