The unpredictability of the Dallas Cowboys defensive line could define their season.
Welcome to part six of my positional review within the NFC East division where we rank each team’s specific units against each other. Up to this point, if this series has done anything, it has solidified that the Dallas Cowboys have the best offense in the division.
Whether it’s the quarterback position, the running backs, receivers or offensive line, the Dallas Cowboys are dominating over their divisional foes. Even with a questionable tight end group, it’s clear that the Cowboys have one of the most potent offenses in all of football.
Today, however, we move on to the defensive side of the ball. This, of course, has been semi-problematic for this franchise for quite some time. The focus of this article is all about the defensive line which has specifically been an underperforming group within the scope of the league for far too long.
Historically, when you think of the NFC East, one thing that has been prominent has been menacing defensive lines. From the duo of Jerome Brown and Reggie White for the ’80s and ’90s Eagles to those units in New York who carried a middling offense to two Super Bowl wins in 2007 & 2011, the NFC East has had elite defensive lines.
The Dallas Cowboys, meanwhile, have had superstar players come and go during that time, but the unit as a whole has struggled. Back in 2007 and 2008, DeMarcus Ware led units that finished third and first respectively in sacks, largely due to the 34 he posted by himself.
A one-man wrecking crew rarely dominates however as evident by another talented DeMarcus and what his production has meant. Exactly one decade later, DeMarcus Lawrence posted 25 sacks in 2017 & 2018, however, the Dallas Cowboys were just average at getting to the opposing quarterback. In fact, for a large amount of the time between 2005-2019, the Cowboys have been average or worse at creating pressure.
Does the 2020 Dallas Cowboys defensive line finally have the group talent to change things? Let’s take a look at how they measure up to their NFC East counterparts.
Before we get to breaking down the NFC East defensive lines, here is how teams earn points for their roster. Each position will earn five points to the best group, three points to second place, and one point to third. We’ll start off with the fourth-place team who will get no points.
New York Giants
Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams, Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter, B.J. Hill, Austin Johnson, RJ McIntosh, Chris Slayton, Niko Lalos
The Giants are the only team within the NFC East to use a 3-4 scheme. While the defensive philosophy itself can be quite devastating, it’s largely based on dominant edge rushers and a run-stuffing interior presence. This New York squad does not feature either of those attributes.
Golden has had two seasons of double-digit sacks, showing the potential to be a disruptive force coming for your quarterback. His other three seasons in the league have seen him tally just 6.5 total, however, meaning consistency and availability have both been difficult for him to master.
Tomlinson, Lawrence, and Carter have largely underwhelmed in their short time in the NFL which is particularly troubling given that all three were drafted in the first three rounds of their drafts. That type of investment needs to yield more production which the Giants have not yet received.
Williams, meanwhile, is also going the wrong way in his career. After being selected sixth overall in the 2015 Draft by the “other” New York team, it seemed like Williams would be a can’t miss star. 2016 saw him be named to the Pro Bowl at which time it seems his career has hit the wall. The next 2.5 seasons saw him woefully underperform which earned him a trade to the Giants where he made little if any difference in eight games last season.
The Giants have finished no better than 20th against the run in the last three years. Their sack numbers have actually been worse during this timeframe. It hard to see this group making much of an improvement in 2020.