The Dallas Cowboys had arguably the worst defense in its history in 2020. They were 31st against the run, 28th in points allowed and gave up a franchise-record 473 points.
With that being said, upgrading the defense is the focus for the Cowboys this offseason, and Thursday they took a step forward in fixing their weakest unit. They signed defensive lineman Brent Urban and edge rusher Tarell Basham to one-year and two-year contracts respectively as versatile upgrades on the Cowboys defensive line.
Urban is a former fourth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2014 NFL draft after spending a year in the CFL. A torn ACL and a torn biceps limited Urban to play only six games in his first two seasons and he recorded just one sack. In 2016, he played all 16 games and had two sacks.
The next season, Urban suffered a foot injury that required surgery as he missed 13 games. In 2018, he once again played in all 16 games but only registered a half-sack. The last two seasons have been his most consistent at staying healthy as he’s played 29 out of a possible 32 games and registered 2.5 sacks.
Urban isn’t going to blow you away with sack numbers, however, he’s very stout against the run. He had a run defense grade of 79.7 in 2018 and it went up to 83.7 last season which was the third-best for all interior defensive linemen.
Brent Urban who was a mid-season signing for the #Bears last year has proved his worth this season. A solid interior guy who seemingly is always disrupting things in the backfield for opposing offenses. #DaBears pic.twitter.com/bYrGb9ESVE
He can play as an interior run defender or on the edge while also providing special teams value (has logged 370 snaps in his career).
Basham is a former third-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He’s played in 58 out of a possible 64 games during his career which is a position sign when it comes to his availability. After only two sacks in his first two seasons, he’s picked it up a little lately. He added two sacks in 2019 but last season was the best of his career with 3.5 sacks while also forcing three fumbles.
During his college days at the University of Ohio, Basham amassed 27 sacks as a defensive end. In the NFL, however, he’s mostly played as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Under Dan Quinn, Basham will go back to being an edge rusher and add to the Cowboys outside rush with DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Ron’Dell Carter, and Bradley Anae.
Last season, according to Pro Football Focus, Basham had a run defense grade of 71.7 which was 30th for all edge rushers. Much like Urban, Basham provides special teams help as well with 579 snaps logged in his career.
These signings won’t get major headlines but the Cowboys have added two solid rotational pieces and are showing a commitment to being much better not only against the run but as an overall defensive unit.