Week 7 scouting report: The Dallas Cowboys defense is a problem

Pride of Detroit

The Detroit Lions return from the bye week, and they won’t have an easy task ahead of them to get out of their current 1-4 funk. The Dallas Cowboys may be coming off a tough loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night, but they are still 4-2. They believe they could be a Super Bowl contender this year, and it looks like they’re getting their QB1 back this week.

The Lions may be coming out of the bye healthier and with the element of surprise, given that it appears more changes are being made on the defensive side of the ball. But will that be enough to take down an objectively good Cowboys team?

Let’s take a closer look in our Week 7 scouting report.

Dallas Cowboys

2022 offseason

Key additions: OT Jason Peters, LB Anthony Barr, EDGE Dante Fowler,
Key losses: WR Amari Cooper (trade), OT La’el Collins, EDGE Randy Gregory, LB Keanu Neal, S Damontae Kazee, K Greg Zuerlein

2022 NFL draft picks:

Round 1: OT Tyler Smith
Round 2: EDGE Sam Williams
Round 3: WR Jalen Tolbert
Round 4: TE Jake Ferguson
Round 5: OT Matt Waletzko
Round 5: CB DaRon Bland
Round 5: LB Damone Clark
Round 5: DT John Ridgeway
Round 6: LB Devin Harper

In 2021, the Dallas Cowboys were one of the best teams in football. They were 12-5, had a top 10 offense and defense, and were Football Outsiders’ No. 1 team by DVOA. Yet it all came crashing down when the Cowboys called a draw play at the end of the Wild Card game of the playoffs, accidentally running out the clock when they were in prime position to potentially tie the game.

This offseason, it appears the plan was to simply try and keep as much of the team together as possible and run it back. They didn’t make a ton of free agency moves, because they entered February well over the cap. They traded WR Amari Cooper, cut La’el Collins, and restructured a few contracts to create some room, but that was really only to keep their head above water.

In the draft, the Cowboys picked Tulsa’s Tyler Smith with the first pick, hoping to rebuild an offensive line that was once viewed as the clear best front in the game, but has slowly been slipping since. In the third round, they grabbed Jalen Tolbert to join CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup to cope with the loss of Cooper.

2022 season thus far (4-2)

Week 1: Lost to Buccaneers, 3-19
Week 2: Beat Bengals, 20-17
Week 3: Beat Giants, 23-16
Week 4: Beat Commanders, 25-10
Week 5: Beat Rams, 22-10
Week 6: Lost to Eagles, 17-26

Stats:

  • 23rd in points scored (18.3 PPG), 3rd in points allowed (16.3 PPG)
  • 4th in overall DVOA
  • 17th in offensive DVOA (21st in pass DVOA, 6th in run DVOA )
  • 6th in defensive DVOA (3rd in pass DVOA, 17th in run DVOA)

The 2022 Dallas Cowboys have yet to score more than 25 points in a game and they’re 4-2. Imagine that. No, seriously. Imagine that. You watch a team that is currently averaging 35.0 points per game and is 1-4.

That, of course, is because of Dallas’ ridiculously good defense. They have only given up 20 points or more in a single game—last week against arguably the best team in the NFL, a Philadelphia Eagles team that is averaging 26.8 points per game.

That defense is led by a dangerous duo of pass rushers in Micah Parsons (6 sacks) and DeMarcus Lawrence (3 sacks). They’re also getting strong play from cornerback Trevon Diggs (69.6 PFF grade, league-leading 9 passes defended, 2 INTs).

Offensively, it’s hard to judge the team right now considering backup quarterback Cooper Rush has been playing since Dak Prescott injured his thumb in the fourth quarter of the season opener. Rush has not played poorly, but the team hasn’t had to rely on him much. Mainly playing with the lead, Rush averaged just 194 passing yards in Dallas’ four-game winning streak. But when the game was forced into Rush’s hands last week against an Eagles team that jumped out to a 20-0 lead, the honeymoon was over. Rush threw three interceptions and averaged just 4.8 yards per pass attempt.

It appears Prescott is primed to return this week, but it’s unclear how much the passing offense is expected to improve. Prescott struggled mightily in the season opener—albeit against a really good Buccaneers defense. The Lions defense could provide Prescott with a nice ease-in game, considering Detroit currently possesses the 32nd-ranked pass defense by DVOA.

The reason the Cowboys were able to weather the Prescott injury storm—outside of their defense—is because their rushing offense continues to hum around average. They’re 16th in expected points added per rush, and 19th in yards per carry (4.3).

Key injuries:

  • IR/PUP/NFI: LT Tyron Smith, EDGE Tarell Basham (IR), LB Damone Clark (NFI)
  • Other injuries: QB Dak Prescott (finger), OL Jason Peters (chest), TE Dalton Schultz (knee), WR CeeDee Lamb (hip, played)

Aside from the Prescott injury, the Cowboys have been relatively healthy. And with Prescott likely to play against the Lions, Dallas is in a really good spot health-wise, especially considering they’re six weeks deep into the season.

Tyron Smith has been the biggest loss for the Cowboys, but rookie Tyler Smith has slid into the left tackle position and played well. Though he has a 59.2 pass blocking grade per PFF, he has allowed just three sacks, and he’s a force as a run blocker. It’s certainly a downgrade from an eight-time Pro Bowler, but Dallas still has to feel pretty good about the rookie’s future.

That said, Dalton Schultz missed last week with a knee injury, and CeeDee Lamb is dealing with a hip injury. Lamb played on Sunday night and caught five passes for 68 yards.

Biggest strength: Pass rush

The Cowboys lead the league with 24 sacks through six games—for an average of 4.0 per game. They have had at least two sacks in every single game this season, rank second in pass rush win rate, and second in PFF’s team pass rush grade. It should be an epic battle between them and the Lions’ offensive line.

Biggest weakness: Pass protection

The Cowboys rank dead last in ESPN’s pass block win rate, and 20th in PFF’s pass blocking grade. Yet Dallas has only allowed nine sacks on the season. What gives? Well, Cooper Rush has been getting the ball out quick, averaging just 2.57 seconds from snap to throw (third quickest in NFL).

Now, if Dak Prescott starts on Sunday, Detroit may have a better opportunity to get to the quarterback. Last year, Prescott averaged 2.75 seconds from snap to throw—the 12th quickest in the league. It’s not a huge difference, but Dak has had a history of taking unnecessary sacks and every tenth of a second counts.

Vegas line for Sunday: Cowboys by 7

Articles You May Like

Aidan Hutchinson named to PFWA’s All-Rookie team, but not DROY
3 free agents the Detroit Lions should watch in the conference championship games
NFL Sunday Divisional Round open thread: Bills vs. Bengals; Cowboys vs. 49ers
Detroit Lions Should TRY To Bring Back Wide Receiver DJ Chark In Free Agency
USFL’s Michigan Panthers will play at Ford Field in 2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *