Coming into the 2018 NFL season, I looked at the Dallas Cowboys and saw them as a team that would fairly easily win 10 games and make the playoffs. Questions centered around Dak Prescott and the offense, but I like many, thought the defense was going to be elite.
Well, after five games, it's safe to say that the defense is not elite.
The Dallas Cowboys' defense wasn't the entire problem on Sunday night in their 19-16 loss to the Houston Texans, but to say that they didn't have their own struggles on Sunday would be an understatement.
We've seen what this defense is, and what they are is not good enough.
As a unit, they haven't been bad, but they aren't a unit that is capable of carrying an offense as bad as the Dallas Cowboys offense is. And I can't kid myself anymore, this Cowboys offense is a bad offense.
The Texans moved the ball at will on the Dallas Cowboys. They hit the Cowboys for big gains in both the passing game and running game. The Cowboys allowed 462 yards of total offense. Houston Texans Quarterback Deshaun Watson throwing for 375 and running for another 40.
The Cowboys defense pressured him 17 times, but were only able to come away with one sack. This against the team that had given up the second most sacks in the NFL coming into week five.
Running Back Alfred Blue rushed for 46 yards on the day, but had 47 yards after contact. Though Blue only ran for 2.3 yards per carry, he was able to do enough to keep the Texans in favorable down and distances on Sunday night.
The Dallas Cowboys were able to force the Texans to kick field goals inside the five yard line three times. The Texans also failed to convert on fourth and goal from inside the five yard line at the end of the second half. Imagine what the score would be like if the Texans were able to score on even half of their inside the five yard line attempts. Were they lucky or were they good in their ability to limit the Texans to field goals from inside the five? Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good and I think the Cowboys were more lucky. They were lucky to hold the Texans to 19. They could have easily given up 30 or more if not for the play of the Linebacker Jaylon Smith.
Other than the red zone defense, which was stingier than a Dave and Buster's claw machine, the Dallas Cowboys couldn't do anything to stop Houston. Deshaun Watson was slinging the ball around like an in his prime Drew Brees and the Cowboys had no answer for it on the defensive side of the football.
When the Texans got the ball in overtime, I didn't have a good feeling about their ability to prevent Houston from kicking the game winning field goal. There had been too much evidence in the previous 60 minutes — 3 games — of play that Dallas is struggling on defense.
The Cowboys defense has now struggled three weeks in a row after starting the season strong against the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants. They've now allowed an average of 22.33 points per game over the last three weeks and the pass defense has seen their passing yards against increase each of the last three weeks. In their last two weeks, they've allowed 318 passing yards per game to Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson, who are good passing quarterbacks, but aren't the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
Kris Richard, Rod Marinelli, and the defensive coaching staff attempted to make a personnel adjustment in the middle of the game by going with Anthony Brown at left corner back and inserting Jourdan Lewis into the lineup as the slot corner. The results were better in the second half compared to the first half, but they were still giving up a lot of yards to the Texans.
Someone on the defensive line has to start turning pressures into sacks. DeMarcus Lawrence as good as he is, can't do it all, and week after week, he's going to be asked to try to beat multiple blockers when rushing the quarterback. Very few players in the NFL can play against double teams on every snap and win consistently. So, someone along the defensive line is going to have to give opposing quarterbacks something to think about. Whether it's Taco Charlton, Randy Gregory, or the returning David Irving, someone has to help Lawrence out.
I hate to say it, but the 2018 season is heading to an unfortunate place. The Dallas Cowboys are looking down the barrel of a sub-.500 season because this defense isn't good enough to carry the offense.
At this point, we know what this team is and on both sides of the football, they aren't very good.