Run defense: It was weak for most of the season. I’m almost tempted to leave it there for the defense, because this is what mattered the most. They just could not stop the run.
Considering how badly the Cowboys performed against the Rams in the playoffs last year, allowing them to run for 273 yards, their performance this year is unforgivable.
They had the whole offseason to diagnose what the problem was and retool. But they didn’t even try. They threw a patch on the problem and said it would be fine. But it wasn’t.
In retrospect, it’s clear (at least to me) that it’s time for a change of philosophy. Basically, defensive coordinator Marinelli’s scheme is to go full-tilt for sacks. He wants all his defensive linemen to be “racing lizards.”
Look, I’m all for putting pressure on the quarterback and getting sacks. But not at the expense of being weak against the run. Marinelli and the Cowboys front office has been averse to getting big, run-stuffing defensive tackles for years.
I’ve never understood this. It’s never made sense to me and I think the results this season prove the folly of Dallas’s philosophy.
Remember a few years ago, when Sean Lee got injured, and the Cowboys defense stunk? I think Lee’s excellent play masked the deficiencies of the defense at the time.
And I think Leighton Vander Esch did the same thing in 2018. This year, it didn’t work because Vander Esch played poorly at the beginning of the season and then got injured.
The good news is that I think this is very fixable. The Cowboys need a new defensive philosophy, and they need to finally acquire a couple huge run-stuffing tackles. In the draft, through free agency. I don’t care. But get them they must. If they want to improve on defense.
With some bigger tackles, all of sudden, Dallas’s linebackers will be able to play better. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to finally get a high-quality strong safety.
The Cowboys could have done this last year, in the second round, but instead, they drafted defensive tackle Trysten Hill, who hasn’t contributed much. They should try again for a stud safety this year. It could really help.