In 2018 the Dallas Cowboys fielded a top six defensive unit. This 2020 group still has many of the key components while adding several upgrades.
The 2018 Dallas Cowboys finished the season 10-6 and won a playoff game. After a poor final playoff performance against the Rams, it’s easy to forget the defense largely carried that team. The offense was below average finishing 22nd in both points and yards.
The stop unit was far more impressive, finishing 6th in points allowed and 7th in yards allowed. The run defense ranked fifth in total yards and yards per attempt. The pass defense was 13th in yards and eighth in touchdowns allowed. Combined both defensive aspects finished 9th in first downs surrendered.
MOST OF THE KEY PIECES REMAIN
What does the 2018 defense have to do with 2020? The only starting players gone from the 2018 unit are Byron Jones (CB), Jeff Heath (S), Maliek Collins (DT), and Damien Wilson (LB).
Aside from Jones, the other three losses have already found upgrades. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is an improvement over Heath. Gerald McCoy is more powerful and consistent inside than Collins. And Sean Lee is a better SAM linebacker than Wilson. That’s not even counting better depth at those three positions than 2018.
Jones is a significant loss, though three of the top four corners still remain from the 2018 team. Replacing Jones won’t be easy. Two promising rookies Trevon Diggs (6-1, 205) and Reggie Robinson (6-1, 205) can help ease the pain.
Veteran addition Daryl Worley (6-1, 215 , 49 starts in four seasons) will have his say also. That’s three new talented faces with good size joining the battle to replace Jones.
WHAT ABOUT RIGHT DEFENSIVE END?
There is much concern over losing Robert Quinn to free agency. It’s easy to forget Tyrone Crawford started 15 games at right end for that top six 2018 defense. Randy Gregory got the other start and could be back joining Crawford in 2020.
The main starter from 2018 is back, Gregory should return, and freak athlete Aldon Smith is now joining the right defensive end fray. There are plenty of question marks surrounding those three. Yet the position is likely no worse off than 2018, with a more promising upside.
The fact remains that the 2018 defense was good enough to make a deep playoff run if paired with an explosive offense. The only significant piece missing from that defense is Jones at corner, though plenty of help is on the way. It may take a little time to come together, but the 2020 unit will be solid and make their mark.