Dallas Cowboys: Tempering expectations for the defense

Jourdan Lewis, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Jourdan Lewis, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Despite changes to personnel and the coaching staff, fans should temper their expectations towards how good the Dallas Cowboys defense will be in 2020.

Dating back to the mid-2000s, expectations have always been high as it pertains to the Dallas Cowboys. Deserved or not, pundits and fans both see the talent at certain spots and believe that this team belongs in the conversation when talking about the best in the league.

Usually, those expectations come based on the offense weaponry the Dallas Cowboys possess. Since 2006, the Cowboys have finished in the top ten in points scored seven times. They have finished in the top ten in total yards eight times during that span.

The Cowboys have been fortunate to go from Tony Romo to Dak Prescott at the quarterback position. After cycling through several low-level talents or washed up veterans following the retirement of Troy Aikman, having good, if not great play from the game’s most important position has helped keep Dallas in the conversation.

Other stars such as Ezekiel Elliott at running back, Terrell Owens, Dez Bryant, and Amari Cooper at receiver as well as Jason Witten at tight end have helped keep the Star shining brightly offensively. What the Dallas Cowboys have not had, however, is the same firepower defensively to go along with the offense.

Since 2004, the year following legendary head coach Bill Parcells’ turn around of the defense to the best in football, the accolades and accomplishments have been too few, too far and in between. The Dallas Cowboys defense finished in the top ten in points allowed just three times and yards allowed six.

Heading into the 2020 season, expectations are once again high for the Dallas Cowboys. The offense is certainly the main reason for such lofty hopes but many are also buying into changes made to the defense. This is where I would urge you, if you happen to be in that camp, to temper those expectations.

It is easy to look at some of the changes that have been made and presume that things will instantly get better. One could easily argue that much of the reason for the Dallas Cowboys’ constant failings for so long has been due to coaching.

Now, with a total change in regime, it’s plausible that things will improve from that move alone. It is also completely possible that with the uncertainty in the World currently still very much in play, that learning a whole new scheme may take longer to grasp than normal.

There are also several additions, from a talent standpoint, that on paper make the Dallas Cowboys look much improved. Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Aldon Smith via free agency, along with the return of Tyrone Crawford and (hopefully) Randy Gregory should improve the defensive line immensely.

That is unless McCoy and Poe start the descent of their career. Not to mention, Smith and Gregory needing a full season to shake off the rust from missing so much time due to suspension or Crawford’s level of play suffering from the multiple surgeries performed in 2019.

The Cowboys did also lose 11.5 sacks from the inability to retain edge rusher, Robert Quinn. That is the only tangible truth as we know things.

The Cowboys also addressed concerns in the secondary, upgrading the safety position via free agency with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. They got younger at cornerback, using two draft picks to bring in more talent, while signing a few veterans at that position to build depth.

That all sounds well and good until you remember that Pro Bowl cornerback Byron Jones took his talents to South Beach and this unit was a wreck last year with him around covering up the bad stuff. Maybe the secondary is better due to depth or maybe guys like Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are not ready for prime time.

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All of us want this defense to rise up and rival the offense. All of us are excited about new coaches, new players, and a new attitude on the defensive side of the ball. Hopefully, we see the fruits of these maneuvers and expectations finally becoming reality. It may be wise, however, to allow for pleasant surprises rather than expect great things from so many variables.