Dallas Cowboys: 7 factors in the recently improved defense

DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty) Images
DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty) Images /
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Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma Sooners
Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma Sooners (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) /

Factors in the Dallas Cowboys’  improved defense

1. Antwaun Woods has been a big improvement over Dontari Poe at nose tackle (one technique) – This summer, the Cowboys splurged on a number of defensive linemen. One of them was Poe, who, as a former first round pick and a two-time Pro Bowler, was supposed to be an improvement over Woods.

He wasn’t. Poe was almost a non-factor on the defense and was a big part of Dallas’s problems stopping the run. Two weeks ago, Poe was finally released along with Daryl Worley, a free agent cornerback. Since then, Woods has re-asserted himself along the line, and the Cowboys run defense has been much better.

2. Neville Gallimore, in his second start at defensive tackle, has improved immensely – Drafted in the third round of this year’s NFL draft, Gallimore was projected to have, basically, a red-shirt year. The word was he was physically gifted but needed work on his technique.

This would have been fine, until both their other three-techniques went down to season-ending injuries. First it was Gerald McCoy, a six-time Pro Bowler who the Cowboys signed in the offseason.  McCoy ruptured his right quadriceps and was cut before the season began.

Then, just a few weeks ago, starting DT Trysten Hill tore his ACL. Suddenly it was next man up. Gallimore had to play, ready or not. In his first exposure, Gallimore looked lost, often getting pushed out of the way.

But not this week. Dubbed his coming-out party, the big man had three tackles, one of them in the backfield. But he was better than his stats. Gallimore dominated the line for much of the game, pushing it inward, disrupting plays in the backfield. He was a big part of the reason Pittsburgh was only able to run the ball for 46 yards. He was outstanding.