The Dallas Cowboys were touted as an elite defense in 2018. But they were still one of the worst in the NFL when it comes to forcing interceptions.
Based on the numbers, the Dallas Cowboys fielded one of the top defenses in the NFL last season. The Cowboys only allowed opposing offenses to score an average of 20.3 points per game in 2018, the sixth lowest average in the league.
And their roster is chock full of stars, led of course by two-time Pro Bowler and the team’s sack leader for three of the past four seasons, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Currently in the midst of some troubling contract negotiations, no one questions Lawrence’s importance to this defense last season. Posting double-digit sacks, D-Law was the War Daddy pass rusher Dallas has needed since parting ways with the great DeMarcus Ware back in 2014.
Beyond Lawrence, the Cowboys’ defense now features one of the top linebacker corps in all of football. Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch elevated this unit to new heights in 2018, with Vander Esch earning a Pro Bowl nod in his rookie season.
Finally, the secondary was much improved last season under the steady hand of new passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach Kris Richard. The former defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks made a brilliant move, shifting former first-round selection Byron Jones from safety to cornerback.
Jones was widely considered one of the top cover corners in the NFL last season, earning his first Pro Bowl nomination and All-Pro selection in his four-year career. And he did so without recording a single interception, which is usually the measuring stick for cornerback success.
In fact, the Cowboys have struggled to force interceptions for years. It was thought that their struggling pass rush was a big factor in their lack of picks. But the emergence of Lawrence has somewhat debunked that theory. Instead, the default judgment is simply that the secondary in Dallas has a severe lack of playmakers.
Last season, the Cowboys recorded just nine total interceptions. That was tied for the 26th lowest in the NFL. The Dallas defense hasn’t posted more than 10 interceptions in a single season since 2014 when they recorded a whopping 18 picks.
Can the Dallas Cowboys’ defense really be considered elite without getting takeaways in the passing game? If Byron Jones can be considered a Pro Bowler without recording a single interception, then the Dallas defense likely gets a pass. They’re just unlikely to pick it off.