Pro Football Focus (PFF) recently finished a series in which they ranked the top 32 players by position. Not so surprisingly the Dallas Cowboys landed quite a few of their players on the list. Today will take a look at Dallas’ defensive players who made PFF’s cut.
- Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns
- Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
- Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
- T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders
- Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers
Parsons finished top five in both pass rush grade (92.2) and win rate (19.6%) over the last two years and is No. 1 in the league in our pass rush productivity metric.
- Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys
- Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- John Franklin-Myers, New York Jets
- Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions
- Josh Uche, New England Patriots
- Denico Autry, Tennessee Titans
- Randy Gregory, Denver Broncos
- Chase Young, Washington Commanders
Lawrence leads off the Tier 4 list. His pass-rush stats have faded a bit over the past few seasons, but he’s one of the top all-around edge players in the league due to how good he is against the run. He’s recorded 85.1 run defense and 88.1 pass rush culmulative grades since 2020.
Micah Parsons landing at No. 2 in PFF’s EDGE rankings seems about right, although an argument could be made he should claim the top spot. And as far as DeMarcus Lawrence is concerned, landing in Tier 4 is a little low for player who is all-round game is among the best.
LVE claimed the very last spot in PFF’s top 32 LB rankings. He was a key component to Dallas’ defense last season and and should continue to be so in 2023. He will be relied upon to lead a young group of LBs for the Cowboys this season.
There was a stretch where Gilmore was the best cornerback in football, and while that may be in the past now, he showed in each of his past two stops that he can still play at a very high level. For the Colts, Gilmore recorded an 81.1 PFF coverage grade and allowed an 82.6 passer rating from 82 targets. He now gets the benefit of playing opposite Trevon Diggs in Dallas in 2023.
Diggs didn’t have the same gaudy interception stats in 2022 as he did the year before, but he was a better overall player. Over the past two seasons, he has given up some big plays but is a ballhawk and a dangerous cornerback to test. His play may see a boost this season with Stephon Gilmore on the other side keeping defenses honest.
According to PFF, the Cowboys have the top CB duo starting on the outside for them heading into 2023. Throw in DaRon Bland in the slot as their third CB, and they could possibly have the best trio starting for them the season as well.
While Malik Hooker roves the deep part of the field behind him, Kearse has carved out a role for himself rotating between the box and slot. He’s shown a little of everything in his two years with Dallas. He’s had two interceptions and 11 total pressures in each of the past two seasons. His overall grades of 75.9 (2021) and 71.9 (2022) display his consistency. He’s also never missed more than four tackles in his seven seasons. He’s a solid contributor to a really good defense.
The second Dallas safety to appear on this list, Wilson plays more in the box than Jayron Kearse, and 2022 was a breakout year for him. Wilson is an aggressive player and an occasionally excellent blitzer. His 14 pressures led all safeties and his 85.3 pass-rush grade ranked fourth. He can be overly aggressive at times, as evidenced by his 18 missed tackles, but Wilson and his running mates give Dallas a chance to field an elite secondary this season.
There may not be a better scheme fit on this list than Hooker being paired with Dan Quinn’s Cover 3 defense. Hooker is a true free safety with the speed to man the deep middle by himself. His primary responsibilities in Quinn’s defense are to make tackles and prevent big plays. He does both at an elite level. He missed only four tackles and gave up 10 (!) yards after the catch all season. That all contributed to his 76.2 overall grade, a top-15 mark at the position.
The Dallas Cowboys were the only team to have three safeties make it into PFF’s top 32 rankings. Jayron Kearse, Donovan Wilson, and Malik Hooker all bring something a little different to Dallas’ defense and are all perfect fits for what Dan Quinn needs on the backend.