"We-fense" - A Look at the Cowboys' Defense
When you look at the Dallas Cowboys' defensive roster, there aren't any huge names that jump off the screen at you. I'll give you a second to name one, go ahead.
What was that? DeMarcus Ware? *BUZZER* He's now a Denver Bronco.
Um...Sean Lee? *BUZZER* He's been on injured reserve all season.
Charles Haley? *BUZZER* Are you even trying?
In fact, there is not one Pro Bowl player on the Cowboys defense this year, despite the team winning the NFC East Division. So it shouldn't be a huge surprise that you can't name one.
The Cowboys defense finished dead last in the league last year in total defense at 415 yards per game. Going into 2014, analysts predicted them to be even worse than that. I remember hearing one analyst predict the Cowboys to finish the season 3-13, with the three wins coming solely at the hands of Tony Romo and the offense, since their defense was going to be absolutely dreadful.
Defensive end Jeremy Mincey gave this quote before their Wild Card game against Detroit last week, “I’m excited to see our team who was expected to do nothing rise to the occasion. The great thing is guys understood if you expect to be great, you can become great. They started getting the mentality of it and did a good job of reaching their full potential."
But despite the media's lack of confidence in their defensive squad, the Cowboys improved from 2013 and finished the regular season ranked 19th in the league in yardage allowed (355 yds/game), which was only 10 yards per game behind the Packers. Dallas also ranked 15th in points allowed per game at 22.
Their leader on defense is kind of hard to pinpoint. No one really stands out on the stats sheet. Nine different players finished the year with an interception. Their leading tackler, strong safety Barry Church, ranked 42nd overall in the league with 97 combined tackles.
But much like the Detroit Pistons of the early 2000s, this team has managed to turn a roster of average players and turn them into a cohesive unit that makes things happen. Mincey hit it right on the nose when he said, "Our defense is we-fense, and that's what we focus on. There is no star of the defense."
While the team manages to put a check mark in the win column most weeks, they don't seem to do it by rushing the passer well. On the season, their team only tallied 28 sacks, with Mincey putting up six. They did, however, put up a total of 18 interceptions on the season to go along with 15 forced fumbles - 13 of which they recovered.
Overall, their defensive unit gives off that swarming vibe. They reek of a team that realizes the need for teamwork and rallies around each other to accomplish what they strive for. While their offense has been clicking well most of the season, the defense has come up big at times when they're needed. It's these kind of squads that make me uneasy.
However, I don't think they're going to have enough to stop the tsunami of scoring that is the Packers offense. Even with a bum calf, Aaron Rodgers has more than enough composure and ability to carve up any visiting defense. Our 39+ points per home game average is a large number to overcome.