The debate over which player or what position is the biggest need in the draft for the Dallas Cowboys is less important as this overall need.
We’re on to April, which, for the Dallas Cowboys means the main focus turns to the draft. Sure, there is still that little (huge) issue regarding a long-term deal for the team’s most important defensive player. That’s not getting resolved anytime soon so we’ll leave that for another time.
Today, we’ll start moving towards the big date of Thursday, April 25. Actually, make that Friday, April 26 given that Dallas currently does not own a first round pick.
Anyways, a lot of people like to debate what’s more important between drafting a position of need or drafting the best available player. For the Cowboys in 2019, I’m here to let you know the answer. It’s neither.
Dallas need not concern itself with positional needs or the best guy on the board. They need to address an issue that’s gone on far too long. That issue is interceptions, or better yet, the inability to get them when on defensive.
Ironically, the Cowboys are quite good (read: lucky) at recovering fumbles. Fumbles are completely arbitrary. An oblong shaped “ball” that can bounce many different ways during any given attempt to pick it up apparently loves going towards Dallas. Four times in the last five years, the Cowboys have finished in the top ten in fumble recoveries. Even more ironically, they have finished eighth best three consecutive years running.
To prove how fortunate Dallas has been in this arena, even though they’ve been in the top in recoveries four of the last five years, they’ve only been in the top ten twice in forcing fumbles. Now, just think if they could get anyone to actually intercept a ball every now and again.
As good (lucky) as the Cowboys have been at recovering fumbles, they have been equally atrocious at picking off opposing quarterbacks. For the past four years, Dallas has finished 26th, 25th, 27th and 31st in interceptions. They have 36 total from 2015-2018. For a point of reference, Baltimore, who led the league in back-to-back seasons from 2016-2017 had 39 in just those two years.
As it stands currently, over the past four seasons, here are your current/active leaders for this team in interceptions.
- Jeff Heath – 6 ints
- Anthony Brown – 5 ints
- Byron Jones – 3 ints
- Chidobe Awuzie, Xavier Woods, Leighton Vander Esch – 2 ints
- Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence – 1 int
The addition of George Iloka in free agency helps as he has five in the last four years on his own, but still, this is the biggest need of the Cowboys So, how does one go about scouting the talent of ballhawking? Some of it is the stuff you see at the NFL Combine.
For example, the 40-yard dash, or more accurately, the 10 and 20 yard splits are a great indicator of a defensive back’s ability turn-and-run burst against vertical threats. The three cone drill showcases the ability to sink, bend and cut laterally, while the shuttle drill provides insight on a player’s ability to change speeds and get to a top speed quickly.
Most of it, however appears to be coaching. Teams experience roster churn (a Jason Garrett pet phrase) every year. From season to season, it’s not uncommon for teams to have as many as twenty new players.
Certain teams, though, continue to top the charts when it comes to interceptions. The Buffalo Bills and New York Giants, for example, have been in top eleven teams, four of the last five years. Kansas City (2015-17), Cincinnati and Green Bay (2014-16) have been in the top ten three consecutive years over the last five. Five other teams had back-to-back seasons in the top ten during the last five years.
The hope was that the addition of defensive guru Kris Richard would help improve this issue. It may just be that he needs more time to implement his philosophies and training. It may be that the Dallas Cowboys need to focus more on those combine results. Whatever the answer is, the need is clear. The Cowboys have to become better at getting interceptions.