Dallas Cowboys Defense: Solid Production Despite Setbacks

Oct 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; The Dallas Cowboys celebrate stopping a first down conversion by San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith (left) during the fourth quarter at Levi
Oct 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; The Dallas Cowboys celebrate stopping a first down conversion by San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith (left) during the fourth quarter at Levi /

For all of the complaints about the Dallas Cowboys defense, they are actually ranked higher than many give them credit for so far this season.

Defense! Defense! Defense! We love to see the Dallas Cowboys offense running the ball down opponents throats and throwing completions deep downfield. They’ve had a top-10 ranked offense for so many years that most of Cowboy Nation takes it for granted.

Dallas is currently ranked second overall with an average of 395.8 yards per game. Nobody chants offense though – try it – it just sounds weird. With a top offense, failure to capture Lombardi trophies must be the fault of the defense.

The Cowboys have been trying to address their defensive problems for years. You can blame the general manager / owner Jerry Jones, bad luck due to injuries and suspensions due to idiotic decisions involving the use of substances banned by the league.

With the exception of underperforming free safety and first round pick Byron Jones, the names of our defensive players on the starting lineup have mostly failed to change.


# used on Def


5 of 7


3 of 7


6 of 9


5 of 8


5 of 9


24 of 40

Mention running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott to most fans and they will scream, “The Cowboys always pick offense! We need pass rushers and a shut down cornerback!” It takes the calm amongst us to point out that every team, every year is looking for pass rushers and cornerbacks.

If our offense wasn’t so productive, we’d be screaming for a left tackle, a clear number one wide receiver and a tight end. These things are standard – except in Cowboy Nation – where we also worried endlessly about backup quarterbacks.

Starting in 2012, the Cowboys have had a total of 40 draft picks and used 24 of them on defense. For my fellow statistical geeks – I’m a nerd and proud of it – that’s 60%. To be clear, the Dallas Cowboys have used 60% of their draft picks on defensive players. Yes, players drafted in the 7th round still count, even if they’re “longshots” to make the team.


Morris Claiborne – 1st

Matt Johnson – 4th

J.J Wilcox – 3rd

B.W. Webb – 4th

Ahmad Dixon – 7th

Terrance Mitchell – 7th

Byron Jones – 1st

Anthony Brown – 6th

Kavon Frazier – 6th


Kyle Wilber – 4th

Caleb McSurdy – 7th

DeVonte Holloman – 6th

Anthony Hitchens – 4th

Will Smith – 7th

Damien Wilson – 4th

Mark Nzeocha – 7th

Jaylon Smith – 2nd

Defensive Linemen

Tyrone Crawford – 3rd

DeMarcus Lawrence – 2nd

Ben Gardner – 7th

Ken Bishop – 7th

Randy Gregory – 2nd

Ryan Russell – 5th

Maliek Collins – 3rd

Charles Tapper – 4th

This collection of names would make executives at Baylor Scott & White Health – the largest not-for-profit health care system in Texas – jump for joy. This list of draft picks is mostly a who’s who roster of players that have required medical attention during their time with the Cowboys. Here’s my fast MASH 10: Claiborne, Johnson, Holloman, Wilson, Nzeocha, J. Smith, Crawford, Gardner, Collins and Tapper.

For all of our complaints about our defense, they finish the first quarter of the season ranked 10th overall in scoring defense. That’s my favorite stat because games are determined by who scores the most points, not the most yards.

I’m sure we’ll argue that too – but for the traditionalist – the Cowboys are ranked 18th allowing an average of 358.2 yards per game. If a 90-yard drive ends with a field goal or an interception, I consider that a win for our defense.

Kudos to defensive backs Morris Claiborne, Anthony Brown and J.J. Wilcox. These three players are lighting it up in the secondary. Claiborne with the interception on a bad Blaine Gabbert throw that stopped everyone from talking about how horrible future first round bust Byron Jones is at free safety.

Next: Should The Dallas Cowboys Make a Change at Quarterback?

Brown is filling in for Orlando Scandrick and not giving up big plays, plus blitzing the quarterback. Finally, my comeback player of the year is Wilcox – the hard hitting ball jarring safety that got a big pass break up in San Francisco while covering wide receiver Jeremy Kerley.

Imagine what these guys could do with a pass rush?



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