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Predicting the Dallas Cowboys stat leaders on defense in 2023

We take an educated guess at some stats for the Cowboys defense in the upcoming season.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier, we had approximated the Dallas Cowboys’ leaders in offensive statistics. Unsurprisingly, Dak Prescott is projected to lead Dallas in passing numbers. Who leads the team in rushing scores is a bit more complicated. There’s some uncertainty to be expected with the addition of Brian Schottenheimer taking over as offensive coordinator for Kellen Moore. What’s not complicated, however, is on the defensive side of the ball.

Since Dan Quinn was named defensive coordinator, the Cowboys’ defensive unit has flourished and has become a consistent group. They are arguably one of the best and fastest defenses in the league, while also having the flexibility to play several different fronts and align their personnel in a variety of ways. In keeping up with the theme of predicting the statistical leaders for the Cowboys, here are the projected leaders for the Cowboys’ stats on defense and approximating those totals.

Total Tackles

Initially, it took some thought as to who would best pick to lead the Cowboys in this category. Donovan Wilson led the team with 101 tackles last season and despite missing time with a neck injury, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch came in second with 90 tackles. Ultimately, Jayron Kearse appears to be the more logical choice. Both Vander Esch and Wilson were given new contracts and will be on the team beyond this season. Meanwhile, Jayron Kearse is in the last year of his contract and everyone knows that’s when a chip on a player’s shoulder looks more like a 2X4.

Nevertheless, Kearse deserves some of the credit for the transformation of the Cowboys’ defense in recent years. One of the reasons why the Cowboys have one of the league’s fastest defenses is because they use their safeties so seamlessly throughout their defense. Since arriving in Dallas from the Detroit Lions, Kearse has made a name for himself with his versatility. Kearse can play down near the line of scrimmage as a pseudo linebacker and has the skill to cover tight ends off the line of scrimmage. Kearse also led the team in total tackles in 2021. His speed, skill, and instincts to navigate an efficient path to the ball carrier make him the prime choice to lead the Cowboys in this category.

Leader: Jayron Kearse, 117 tackles

Tackles for Loss

Ordinarily, you would expect this stat to be led by a player who plays along the defensive line. Those considered would be DeMarcus Lawrence, who has been a very effective defender against the run and getting to the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage. Micah Parsons had led the team in this department the last two seasons with 33 tackles for loss (TFL) since 2021. Then you have Sam Williams who played as a supplemental edge rusher and still tallied ten TFL in his rookie year.

Yet, Damone Clark is my choice for this stat, and here’s why. Think about the progress Clark made last season. First, Clark wasn’t expected to take the field last year. After undergoing spinal fusion surgery in the spring of 2022, it was thought that Clark was going to have a redshirt season and be sidelined for his rookie campaign. Not only did Clark play, but he also significant increase in playing time as the season progressed, and passed Jabril Cox on the depth chart.

Clark, having an entire offseason to mature both physically and mentally, should take a leap in his progression. You also have to take into account that Parsons had altered his body to play more frequently along the defensive line, opening more opportunities for Clark. Plus, the team tookcare of business in the trenches by re-signing Jonathan Hankins to play the 1-tech in their defense and drafted Mazi Smith in the first round. Improved instincts, a renewed dedication to the defensive interior, and Clark’s speed will see him lead the team in tackles for loss.

Leader: Damone Clark, 11


Don’t tell me you were expecting anybody but Micah Parsons. Parsons is “him”. Dubbed the “Lion”, Parsons has been hunting and stalking opposing quarterbacks at a blistering pace. At just 23 years old, Parsons has recorded 26.5 sacks and is one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. There are so many things he does well at such a young age, there’s no reason to believe he’s anywhere near his full potential. Parsons can convert speed to power, he can dip his shoulder turn the corner against offensive tackles, and has elite closing speed when rushing through the A and B gaps.

As mentioned, Sam Williams had a very good first year and Dorance Armstrong showed tremendous strides last season. His emergence takes the pressure off Lawrence and Parsons to rush the passer. Another added benefit is the team’s athleticism on the interior. Osa Odighizuwa is very nimble for his size as is Neville Gallimore. Both interior linemen working in tandem with Parsons when he’s lined up at the edge on twists and stunts upfront could lead to even more production. Parsons will come close to breaking DeMarcus Ware’s record for most sacks in a season by a Cowboy (20).

Leader: Micah Parsons, 19


The obvious choice here would be Trevon Diggs and with good reason. In 2021, Diggs led the NFL with 11 interceptions and was named an All-Pro by the associated press. While some argued that Diggs was better in 2022, he allowed far fewer yards in coverage, he didn’t intercept anywhere near as many passes. The likely reason is that he was targeted almost twenty percent less than he was in his breakout year. It only took one season, but quarterbacks quickly learned not to throw the ball in his direction. That also meant bad news for the other side of the field.

It’s been well documented, but the Cowboys suffered through a lot of injuries in their secondary. Anthony Brown tore his Achilles against the New York Giants and from that point forward, the team had a revolving door at cornerback opposite of Diggs. For a time, the Cowboys gave Kelvin Joseph a chance to man the position, but he was abysmal and allowed a passer rating of 147.9 while in coverage. To address that problem the team acquired former Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore, in hopes of finding a solution to their coverage questions.

Gilmore is long in the tooth entering his 11th NFL season but still has excellent instincts and knows how to locate the football and had eleven passes defended for the Indianapolis Colts last year. Let’s also not forget about DaRon Bland. Bland was pressed into action after the Cowboys lost another cornerback, Jourdan Lewis, to a season-ending foot injury. Bland demonstrated excellent ball skills from the slot and intercepted five passes, many of which were him stronger at the point of the catch than the receiver. Bland and Diggs are similar in that characteristic.

In the end, it will be Diggs who leads the team in interceptions. He’s entering the final year of his contract and stands to make a huge pay increase. If he has half the production of his 2021 season, expect the armored truck to be parked in his driveway.

Leader: Trevon Diggs, 7

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