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Position battleground (defense): Cowboys vs. Jets head-to-head breakdown

A positional head-to-head breakdown of the Week 2 matchup between the Cowboys and Jets to find the strengths and weaknesses of each defensive position.

Syndication: NorthJersey Danielle Parhizkaran/, North Jersey Record via Imagn Content Services, LLC

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

If you had doubts about the Cowboys defensive line before watching last week’s game, then hopefully you feel a lot better about it this week. The New York Jets situation on the offensive line, specifically at the tackle position, is a cause of concern for that team. This can be exploited by the Cowboys pass rush that feasted freely against the Giants in Week 1.

Players like Chauncey Golston and Osa Odighizuwa will find it a little tougher this weekend to get into the backfield as apposed to when they played the Giants, but the edge players and pass rushers should have a fairly easy time creating pressure this weekend. This Cowboys pass rush that’s extremely fast will find using that speed to get around Mekhi Becton a successful tactic to win, on the other side is Duane Brown who shouldn’t be too difficult to beat now he’s getting older and slower. The Cowboys lead the league currently in sacks with seven, two of those coming from Dorance Armstrong, and he leads the team in total pressures also. Armstrong was insane last week playing a total of 18 snaps and got six total pressures, two sacks, three tackles and made three defensive stops. There’s no reason to expect this to drop off against the Jets and he now ranks third in run stop efficiency in the NFL.

As for run defending, DeMarcus Lawrence will likely put on a defensive display and find the ball carriers effectively again this week. He graded highest in run defense for the Cowboys among defensive linemen last week. In the middle, Odighizuwa should look to keep up his current team leading defensive stop total on the defensive line. As for the big guys at the 1-tech spot, both Mazi Smith and Johnathan Hankins are tied in tackles and defensive stops, and Smith was close though to getting in on a sack. The pair will be vital this weekend at holding up the run to slow the explosive running backs the Jets have at their disposal. The biggest advantage this line will have this weekend is playing at home. With the crowd noise behind them that should be the spark to ignite them through any tough times when it comes to stopping the run, which is still a weakness for this defense.

The Jets defensive line however will be putting in their own overtime efforts to try and slow Tony Pollard and the running attack from Dallas. Pollard ranks tenth in both breakaway percentage and total rush yards. He’s one of only four players to have scored more than one touchdown so far, but the big part of that was his offensive line. Zack Martin, along with Hunter Luepke running a lead block, helped massively last week to help Pollard get into the endzone. That means this defensive line needs to be aware of these small creases the Cowboys offense can create.

In terms of pass rushing, this Jets defensive line against the Buffalo Bills was very effective. They had five sacks against the Bills and put Josh Allen in all kinds of trouble. Quinnen Williams is one of the top defensive tackles in the league and last year recorded 13 sacks, which was second-most at his position last year. Their edge defenders, Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers, aren’t huge names at defensive end but they do enough to create a healthy amount of pressure. Behind them are younger guys like Jermaine Johnson and Will McDonald who are developing. Both Johnson and Myers recorded sacks against the Bills. Texas A&M rookie Michael Clemons recorded a forced fumble against Allen late in the game off a bad snap, which the Jets recovered. Keep an eye on Carl Lawson on the Jets practice report though. He was out Week 1 with a leg injury but is reported to be ready to play this week.
Win: Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Leighton Vander Esch/Damone Clark
C.J. Mosley/Quincy Williams

Once Clark and LVE found their keys both players were extremely effective at shutting Saquon Barkley down last week. At first things looked a little shaky at trying to stop the run, but due to the team scoring so heavily. the defense got an assist in closing down the Giants run game. LVE currently sits third on the team in total tackles and showed good speed and hustle to get to the ball carrier. His performance was maybe the best between the linebackers. But Clark was just as hungry and seemed to be everywhere in the box to try and get action on every play. It was an impressive showcase from both linebackers and they performed well.

As for the Jets, they had an equally impressive performance at linebacker to shut down the run. Quincy Williams, who’s the brother of fellow teammate Quinnen Williams, sits second on the team in tackles and was instrumental last week on the Jets defense. Behind him is C.J. Mosley who has always been a tackling machine in the league, he’s superb when in pursuit. Quincy Williams has been pretty good for the Jets since moving from Jacksonville in 2021. He can blitz from the inside when given the chance, but he also does well against the run and has been one of the top players in defensive stops since moving to New York. The Jets felt so strongly on Williams they offered him a new contract in the offseason.

Last season the Jets finished better than the Cowboys in stopping the run. Early in last week’s game you could see the success the Giants were having while running the ball. But for Dallas, the plan to help this run defense is simple, score on offense. It seems obvious, but the way this team wins is by scoring points on offense and force teams to lean into their passing game. And that’s what this Cowboys defense does better than any other team, rush the passer. If the Cowboys offense keeps moving downfield and keeps putting up the points, then the linebackers will have another positive game and find life easier when it comes to stopping the run.

For the Jets, they have an effective tandem just like Dallas and have some sneaky depth they can utilize if needed that work on their special teams. This is a close contest between the two groups as Mosley is better than LVE, but Clark you could consider better than Williams. A very slight razor thin win to the Jets though.
Win: Jets

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

This is may be the closest matchup of the two team’s position groups. The Cowboys have two cornerbacks that helped turn the ball over three times last week. Stephon Gilmore took all of one quarter to register his first Cowboys interception, and among starting defensive backs for Dallas he led the team with the lowest pass rating allowed of 12.5. Trevon Diggs was the instigator of two other turnovers, one sent DaRon Bland into the endzone for the score. And speaking of DaRon Bland, he now has six interceptions, eight pass breakups and one defensive touchdown in just eight starts.

This week the receiving threat is more talented than what the Giants put on the field. But one thing going in Dallas’ favor will be the erratic throwing of Zach Wilson when he comes under pressure from the Cowboys pass rush. Keep watch for Donovan Wilson on the practice report. Although the team will want him back, they may not rush him back after the game Juanyeh Thomas just played.

The Jets have an equally talented defensive back room. At right cornerback they have D.J. Reed who last week allowed seven receptions off ten targets, but he leads the team with 11 tackles and is brilliant at helping to stop the run. Everyone knows the name Sauce Gardener who won Defensive Rookie of The Year last season. He’s an intelligent and physical presence that will test these Cowboys receivers this week. Then there’s free safety Jordan Whitehead who made three interceptions against Josh Allen last week. This is a talented group that needs extra caution this week.

This is a closely contested battle between the defensive back groups. While the Jets have Sauce, the Cowboys have Diggs. Both very different cornerbacks but equally impactful. Then the Jets have Reed, but the Cowboys have Gilmore. Here you could side with Gilmore being the much better corner. Then the Cowboys have the likes of Bland, as well as the Cowboys safety group. As a unit, the Cowboys safeties compared to the Jets side are collectively better, but the Jets still have talent there. Add to the mix these two team’s pass rushing abilities to create mistimed throws, which ties into each quarterback and their abilities to handle pressure, and you can say the Cowboys have the defensive back group that should have the better day.
Win: Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

There’s two ways to look at Brandon Aubrey’s performance last week. The first is to say we have a problem. He missed his first kick, it was a simple extra point, those should be automatic. The other side is to say yes he missed his first kick, but it was under poor conditions. The weather played a factor, he was rushed onto the field to take the kick after a surprise blocked-six play, but most of all is that he had the mental fortitude to come back after the miss and stay perfect for the rest of the game. What we saw from Aubrey was a mistake and how he dealt with that. He adjusted, cleared his mind and spent the rest of the game staying on target. Let’s see if he can keep true this week on home ground.

The Jets have a familiar face kicking for them in Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein. He made all four of his kicks last week against Buffalo, but last season he finished 25th out of the starting kickers in the league in field goal accuracy.

Bryan Anger came in on three punt attempts last week. He ranks 12th in average punt yards with 48.7. We do need to shout out the Cowboys punt coverage however, they were outstanding last week getting downfield quickly. For the Jets, Thomas Morstead is 26th in average punt yards but did average a longer hang-time than Anger.

On kick returns, KaVontae Turpin managed to return the ball twice for an average of 8.5 yards. As for the Jets, they have Xavier Gipson who broke off a return in overtime and scored the game ending touchdown.
Win: Jets


Which team has better defense?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Dallas Cowboys
    (483 votes)
  • 10%
    New York Jets
    (56 votes)
539 votes total Vote Now

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