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Cowboys Pass Rush Better than They’re Given Credit For

Bryson Treece

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Cowboys Pass Rush Better than They're Given Credit For
James D. Smith / Dallas Cowboys

Last season, the biggest knock on the Dallas Cowboys--who won 13 games--was the team lacked an effective pass rush. While there might have been some truth in the observation, there is still more to the story. If you want to know the Cowboys’ chances of winning the Super Bowl this year, check out Dallas Cowboys betting odds for the 2017 season.

Last season, the Cowboys didn’t get to the quarterback quickly enough, getting 20 sacks in 12 games and rightfully earning the label of not having a good pass rush. But in their final five games of the season, which includes their playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys had 16 sacks.

The Cowboys averaged 3.2 sacks per game in their final five games, which was more than any other team during that stretch.

Despite the slow start to the season, the Cowboys finished with 36 sacks last year, which was more than the 31 sacks they had the previous season. In fact, the Cowboys went from 25th in sacks in 2015 to 13th in 2016.

To put things in proper perspective, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks are the only playoff teams that finished with more sacks than the Cowboys.

The New York Giants, who spent a substantial amount of money revamping their defense, finished with less sacks than the Cowboys, as did the two Super Bowl teams.

One of the reasons people thought the Cowboys didn’t have a pass rush last season was the inconsistency the team showed throughout the season. The defense averaged 1.6 sacks per game in the first 12 games before going on a tear to end the season.

Another reason people didn’t think they had a good pass rush is the fact that they don’t have any big name players on the defensive line. A good example of what I’m talking about is the Houston Texans.

Last season, whenever the Texans were on television, all fans heard about is how good their defense was, but the reality of it was they finished 24th in sacks last year. The obvious reason they didn’t have as many sacks as the Cowboys is the fact that three-time Defensive Player of the Year, JJ Watt, missed most of the season.

Even without Watt in the lineup, people still gave Houston’s pass rush credit because of Watt.

After going the free agency route to try and establish a premier pass rush, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys decided it wasn’t the best way to approach building their defensive line and are now focused on building it through the draft, as they did with their offensive line.

With so many young players on the line, they haven’t had the time to make names for themselves, but that will soon change as long as they can continue playing at the high level they did to end the season.

Last season, Maliek Collins recorded five sacks as a rookie. David Irving and Tyrone Crawford added four each. This year, the Cowboys drafted Taco Charlton, giving them another pass rusher that is expected to contribute right away.

With last year’s players expected to improve and players like Charlton coming on board, we will likely be talking about how the Cowboys have the best pass rush in the league this time next year.


Nothing gives me greater joy than the experience of being a Dallas Cowboys fan come time to check another victory on the schedule every Sunday. I live Inside the Star everyday and blog on it occasionally, as well. Follow us on Twitter - @InsideTheStarDC

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13 Comments
  • Kevin Brady

    Good points, Bryson. I love having Maliek Collins on the inside, as he’s proven to be an excellent pass rushing DT. I think a lot hinges on David Irving this season. He’s shown how great he can be in spurts, now it’s time for consistency.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

      Consistency is key. And coming back from suspension. But it’s just hard to see the team for what they are sometimes. Is their push rush great? No., but it’s better than many give them credit for.

    • ThePsychodad69

      Good article, more like this and BTB will be knocking, GJOb

      • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

        haha I own ITS so that might be get kinda weird…

        Thanks, though. I appreciate you!

        • John Williams

          this made me laugh a bit as well. Maybe they’ll be knocking and asking for sponsorship, lol.

  • ThePsychodad69

    Aaaaah… Facts way better then PFFs we rated the players on a basis we can’t tell you about, apparently the goverment subscribes to the PFF philosophy, we dont need to tell you how we came up with this, we just did and thats the way it is.

    But that all said, Marinelli felt comfy letting dog’s be dog’s, if you leave them in the house, they can’t protect your boat. Let them roam the yard and they’ll protect the boat and the house.

  • Colston Ballew

    If the cowboys do develop into a top defense in terms of rushing and sacking the QB then the secondary will look a lot better also. Remember the player who put our defense over the top in the 90’s?? One Charles Haley who was a handful to say the least. While nobody in their right mind would ever compare Taco to Haley, if the defensive line can develop into a unit like that one, watch out!!

    • John Williams

      Totally agree with this one. They are on the cusp of being great. They’ve added the pieces in the defensive backfield as well to give the pass rush a bit more time.

  • John Williams

    Yeah, I totally agree. I think they were good at times last season, but also faded at times. The Green Bay playoff game for example. That last play from Rodgers to Cook sticks out in my mind. He had sooooo much time.

    I think you are on point though, that they aren’t as bad as the perception. I just think we don’t know what they’ll be.

    David Irving, Charles Tapper, Benson Mayowa, Damontre Moore, Taco Charlton, Tyrone Crawford can be good players for the team, but to me haven’t arrived yet. I need to see more before I let my worry go on those players.

    I think Maliek Collins is about the only sure thing on the defensive line, and that’s projecting what he was last year to what he can be.

    • Homer Price

      John, You forgot to mention DeMarcus Lawrence, although he did not have many sacks last year, he did pressure the quarterback many times. He led the team in sacks in 2015. I think being suspended the first 4 games hurt his season, I noticed last year he was giving a lot of effort so don’t count him out.

      • John Williams

        I’m curious as to just how healthy he is. I like Lawrence, but back problems don’t go away. They stay with you. Since everything about being a defensive end involves your back, I’m reluctant to count on him just yet coming off his second back surgery.

      • John Williams

        As training camp begins, it looks like I’ve been completely wrong about Lawrence. It appears that he is healthy and ready to go and some people are saying he’s been the best defensive lineman so far. That’s saying a lot.

  • Mr. Jaguar

    I think the Cowboys defense will be successful and will be a top 10 defense in 2017.

Star Blog

Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks 1

It is no secret that the Dallas Cowboys offense failed in 2017. As much as these struggles were about who wasn't on the field for the Cowboys, the talent still out there could rarely do enough to win games. With an elite offensive line, young quarterback, and Dez Bryant on the outside, this was unacceptable and prompted changes in Dallas.

The biggest move the Cowboys made prior to the 2018 NFL Draft was moving on from Dez Bryant. The 29-year old wide receiver remains unsigned, as the Cowboys were comfortable entering the draft with a glaring need at the position.

Still waiting until the third round to add Colorado State's Michael Gallup, the Cowboys later drafted Cedrick Wilson and Tight End Dalton Schultz. Filling their biggest needs with great value on these picks, the Cowboys also found their left guard of the future in Connor Williams at 50th overall.

Add in developmental Quarterback Mike White and Running Back Bo Scarbrough and the Cowboys have an intriguing rookie class on offense - full of players that will absolutely need to step in right away, and some that are here to provide depth.

As I did with the Cowboys defense earlier in the week, here is my best projection on the roles the Cowboys draft picks on Scott Linehan's side of the ball will play.

Left Guard Connor Williams

Scouting Report: "Film Room: OL Connor Williams Is Cowboys Final Piece To Great Run Game"

This was the Dallas Cowboys best pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Keeping Texas Longhorns prospect Connor Williams close to home, ending his draft-week slide at 50th overall to a roar at AT&T Stadium, is more than just a feel good story.

This is a player that fills the Cowboys need for a long-term starter at left guard perfectly. Considered one of the best tackles in the nation prior to injury, Williams will of course benefit from playing between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick.

Bringing his own trademark toughness and athleticism to a new interior position will give the Cowboys arguably their best offensive line since 2014. Ezekiel Elliott has to be a fan of the Connor Williams pick already - as you should be too.

Although the Cowboys did add veteran depth at OT this offseason, Williams is of course another emergency option on the roster to kick outside and handle himself at any position but center. Connor Williams will be a noticeably fun player at LG, creating movement through to the second level on a consistent basis.

Wide Receiver Michael Gallup

Scouting Report: "Film Room: WR Michael Gallup Provides Excellent Value In 3rd Round"

Predictions for what first-year Wide Receiver Michael Gallup will have in store for his rookie season in Dallas have been all over the place. While most are understandably skeptical of the Cowboys "relying" on a third round draft pick to become a force in the passing game, Gallup is a high upside player that fits the Cowboys new approach on offense.

Phasing out the need for a true number one receiver, Gallup is the Cowboys newest "Dak-friendly" asset. Perhaps playing under the radar too much at Colorado State, Gallup has all of the traits needed to explode onto the scene in 2018.

A lengthy athlete with effortless vertical ability and soft hands, Gallup will have no problem separating as a big target on the outside for Prescott. Because of this, I expect him to be the closest thing the Cowboys have to a "WR1" this season - lining up primarily at the X position and putting up numbers better than some of the eight receivers drafted before him.

Sean's Scout: TE Dalton Schultz Fits Cowboys Need as Willing Blocker

Dallas Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz

Tight End Dalton Schultz

Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: TE Dalton Schultz Fits Cowboys Need as Willing Blocker"

The Cowboys have a Jason Witten sized hole to fill inside The Star at Frisco. While just how much on-field production this constitutes is up for debate, the reality is that no player will mean as much to the Cowboys as Witten did for so long anytime soon.

Especially fourth round pick Dalton Schultz, drafted the day after Witten announced his retirement from the NFL. If given a chance to make a name for himself though, the Stanford tight end may rarely come off the field for the Cowboys.

Joining Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin on the roster - two experienced run blockers that are developing as pass catchers - Schultz has plenty of experience playing in Stanford's pro style offense.

Not the most overwhelming blocker, Schultz understands how to control bigger defenders at the line of scrimmage - never shying away from a chance to show his dominance and finish blocks to the ground.

Limited as a route runner and true receiver, Schultz is going to be eased into the Cowboys offense, but will have plenty of opportunities to stand out this summer in training camp and carve out a role in 12 or 13 personnel packages.

Quarterback Mike White

Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: QB Mike White Brings Athleticism, Accuracy to Dallas Cowboys"

It's refreshing for the Cowboys to have a young quarterback that has stayed remarkably healthy through his first two seasons, as Dak Prescott will have no competition for the starting job in 2018. The real competition at quarterback will be directly behind him.

With Kellen Moore trading in his helmet for a coaching hat, second-year Quarterback Cooper Rush will be joined by fifth round pick Mike White. A touch thrower with pro-ready size and plenty of workable traits, White was one of the better late-round candidates the Cowboys could have added to their QB room.

White2

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Taking 2018 to soak in as much as he can about Scott Linehan's offense, it truly doesn't matter much if Mike White is QB2 or QB3 this season. If he was worth the 171st overall pick, the Cowboys believe in his potential, and will work to push him as far as he can go up the depth chart this offseason.

Wide Receiver Cedrick Wilson

Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: WR Cedrick Wilson the Missing Vertical Threat for Cowboys Offense"

In 2017, the Cowboys entered the draft with a promise to restock their depleted secondary - doing so by drafting starting cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the second and third rounds. This year, the wide receiver position felt the same way. Although the Cowboys waited until the sixth round to add their second rookie at WR, Cedrick Wilson is absolutely a player that can make an impact this year and outplay this draft status.

By trading Ryan Switzer at the draft, the Cowboys showed some faith in slot receiver Cole Beasley. Likely not coming off the field much this season, Wilson will have a hard time earning reps on the inside, where he menaces defenders with his length and long speed.

Wilson4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

These are still traits that Cedrick Wilson uses to win on the outside, where every receiver the Cowboys have is going to get a chance. Talented pass catchers are not going to make the final cut on the Cowboys roster, but Cedrick Wilson is one that will earn his spot all summer long.

Look for him to standout in the preseason regardless of who's throwing Wilson the ball, forcing the Cowboys to rotate him into their versatile offense for Prescott to have another big target out wide.

Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks

Dallas Cowboys RB Bo Scarbrough

Running Back Bo Scarbrough

Scouting Report: "Film Review: What Bo Scarbrough Brings to the Cowboys Running Game"

Bo Scarbrough has generated plenty of buzz from Cowboys Nation, and mostly because his name is Bo Scarbrough. A recognizable name out of Alabama, Scarbrough became the Cowboys last pick of the 2018 NFL Draft at 236th overall.

For as much as we've discussed the decisions the Cowboys will have to make elsewhere on offense, their faith rests in starter Ezekiel Elliott. Behind Elliott, the Cowboys have a completely new stable of running backs though.

Tavon Austin was acquired during the draft by the Cowboys to fill the void once left (?) by Lance Dunbar, and at least for now it seems like Dallas has big plans for Tavon on offense. Working both Elliott and Austin onto the field won't be a problem for Linehan, but including Rod Smith and Bo Scarbrough very well might be.

With Smith firmly holding his roster spot because of special teams contributions, Scarbrough will have to follow in similar footsteps to secure his spot on America's Team. The idea of the Cowboys keeping a bruising back like Scarbrough to help them finish games is a fun one, but it doesn't feel practical when crunching the roster numbers.

If Scarbrough does make the cut however, he can absolutely spell Elliott in short yardage and goal line situations, running with consistent power and better-than-expected vision.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys have way too much invested into their offense to see it sputter like it did a year ago. Instilling optimism with the injured players they'll welcome back, the Cowboys were not complacent in adding talent at the draft either.

While Connor Williams and Michael Gallup may be the only true "starters" the Cowboys found, I expect both rookies to excel. Contributions from Dalton Schultz and Cedrick Wilson could put this offensive draft class over the top - prepared nicely for the long run while featuring five players with high enough floors to play this season.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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Cowboys en Español: La Llegada de Kris Richard, ¿La Salvación de Byron Jones?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: FS #31 Byron Jones 2

Desde el momento en el que llegó a la NFL, Byron Jones ha dado mucho de que hablar. Su talento y sus increíbles hazañas atléticas han llevado a pensar a la afición que está destinado al éxito como un defensivo en la secundaria de los Dallas Cowboys. Desafortunadamente, a pesar de algunas jugadas realmente sorprendentes y varios destellos, Jones no ha logrado establecerse como un claro titular de calidad en sus primeros tres años en la liga.

En su primera temporada, el equipo movió a Byron Jones por toda la defensiva, dejándolo jugar como safety, dentro y fuera de la caja, como cornerback interior y exterior. ¡Poco hubiera sorprendido que lo hubieran convertido en un jugador ofensivo!

La versatilidad era un fuerte para el defensivo saliente de la universidad de Connecticut, hasta que el equipo de coaches en Dallas lo convirtió en una debilidad. Al final de cuentas, el dicho lo dice a la perfección. "El que mucho abarca, poco aprieta."

Jones, quien en sus primeras dos temporadas no encontró una posición fija, no obtuvo el progreso que necesitaba. Y una vez que en el 2017 el equipo se comprometió a darle una posición fija, dándole el trabajo de profundo (safety). 

5 Players Cowboys Could put on the Trade Market

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones

Lamentablemente para Jones, debido a problemas contra el juego terrestre y de tackleo, se demostró que jugar con él dentro de la caja, no era la respuesta para Dallas.

Ahora, con la llegada del ex-coordinador defensivo de los Seattle Seahawks y uno de los creadores fundamentales de la entonces llamada "Legion of Boom", Kris Richard, la carrera de Byron Jones cuenta con otra oportunidad y una que podría llevar al jugador de tercer año a finalmente convertirse en un titular de primer nivel.

Tras la llegada de Richard a Dallas, se anunció que Jones se convertiría en un cornerback de tiempo completo para los Cowboys con la esperanza de que este encontrará por fin un lugar donde quedarse.

Probablemente, ambos de los novatos del 2017 Chidobe Awuzie y Jourdan Lewis lograrán quedarse con los dos mejores trabajos en la posición, pero el equipo debe estar contando con que Byron Jones se gané su lugar por encima de Anthony Brown y se establezca como uno de los tres cornerbacks titulares.

"Prototipo. Atleta fantástico, altura genial, tamaño, longitud. Todo está ahí. Tiene una gran actitud. Ha trabajado muy duro desde el día 1. Estoy emocionado de estar a su alrededor." Kris Richard hablando de Byron Jones como un CB.

Los Cowboys tienen esperanzas en Byron Jones, y lo demostraron decidiendo recoger la opción de quinto año en su contrato, asegurándolo hasta la temporada del 2019. Sin duda alguna, una de las razones principales por las cuales el equipo está siendo tan optimista respecto a Jones, es la llegada de Kris Richard.

Con Rod Marinelli cumpliendo 69 años en Julio y bastantes rumores de que consideró el retiro al finalizar la temporada del 2017, el futuro de Kris Richard en Dallas parece prometedor. Tiene todo el sentido del mundo verlo como el coordinador defensivo del equipo en el 2019.

Quizá suene disparatado, pero una mala temporada en el 2018 podría conseguir que Jason Garrett sea despedido. A pesar de que los fans no quieren una mala temporada, si llegara a ocurrir y hay un cambio de head coach para los Cowboys, Kris Richard será un nombre en consideración. Al menos, debería serlo.

Pero por ahora, Richard tiene que enfocarse en replicar el éxito que tuvo defensivamente en Seattle para llevar a la unidad de los Cowboys al siguiente nivel. Byron Jones podría ser una pieza clave en su misión.

¿Será este el año para Byron Jones?

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: La Llegada de Kris Richard, ¿La Salvación de Byron Jones?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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Could New Additions Cause Trouble For Backup RB Rod Smith?

Brian Martin

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Will New Additions Cause Trouble For Backup RB Rod Smith?

The Dallas Cowboys will be adding a couple of new faces at the running back position in 2018, but it shouldn't really have much impact on Ezekiel Elliott's spot atop the RB depth chart. The person it could spell trouble for is Elliott's expected backup, Rod Smith.

Last year Rod Smith finally received an opportunity to prove himself while Ezekiel Elliott was out serving his suspension. Smith proved to be an effective weapon as both a runner and as a receiver in the passing game. He did so well in fact that many have already anointed him as the primary backup heading into the 2018 season.

Rod Smith will absolutely be given every opportunity to prove once again he is the best man for the job to backup Zeke, but there are also some new additions coming in who could possibly challenge for that RB2 role.

Tavon Austin

Dallas Cowboys RB/WR Tavon Austin

Tavon Austin, who the Dallas Cowboys acquired via trade with the Los Angeles Rams during the 2018 NFL Draft, is expected to be utilized as both a wide receiver and running back this year. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has described him as a "web-back" and said that Austin is expected to be utilized in a variety of different ways.

Unfortunately for Rod Smith, that could mean that Tavon Austin cuts into some of the touches Smith could have received. Austin may not have Smith's size or physicality, but his speed and elusiveness is something truly lacking right now on the Cowboys offense.

But, Tavon Austin isn't the only new face who could cause trouble for Rod Smith. The Dallas Cowboys decided to close out the 2018 NFL Draft by selecting RB Bo Scarbrough, a well-known National Champion, formally with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Bo Scarbrough

Dallas Cowboys RB Bo Scarbrough

Bo Scarbrough is more of the old school running back we used to see in the NFL. He is a one cut downhill physical runner, who looks to punish any defender unfortunate enough to get in his way.

Scarbrough and Rod Smith are both bigger backs, but Smith just doesn't play with the same kind of physicality, despite what his size would suggest. Scarbrough could form a formative one-two punch paired with Ezekiel Elliott and together they could wear down opposing defenses.

If you're a fan of Rod Smith, this is certainly a little bit disheartening. He has had to scratch and claw for every opportunity he has received and just when it looks like he has arrived, he may have to prove himself once more.

Fortunately, I think Rod Smith is still the right man for the job to be Zeke's primary backup. He is a better all-around RB then either Tavon Austin or Bo Scarbrough and has the advantage of having the trust of the coaching staff and his teammates.

I'm sure Tavon Austin and Bo Scarborough may steal a few touches from Rod Smith here and there in 2018, but I still expect him to be the RB2 this year. Luckily, all of this talk means next to nothing since Ezekiel Elliott is back and will only come off the field for a breather.

Lookout NFL, Zeke is back and he is hungry!!!

Do you think Rod Smith will be the primary RB backup in 2018?


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