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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

Neutral Perspective: Dak Prescott is NOT a 1-Man Army

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Neutral Perspective: Dak Prescott is NOT a 1-Man Army

It doesn’t take a lot to cause an overreaction in the NFL, and fans and the media alike can be very fickle. Thus, when the Dallas Cowboys were beaten by the Carolina Panthers in week one the discussions surrounding their title credentials began, and even more so because Dak Prescott and his Cowboys offense was only able to score 8 points. He left the stadium still looking for his first touchdown pass of the season and wondering what went wrong.

By all accounts, Prescott wasn’t great, and his quarterback rating of 81.1 reflects that. His performance left the fans concerned and some asserting there were no shades of the Prescott of 2016. Nonetheless, a quarterback has to be helped by his offensive line, and allowing him to get sacked six times shows that improvement is needed up front.

In week 2, against the New York Giants, Prescott started the game with a booming 64-yard touchdown pass to WR Tavon Austin on the first series of the game. It was a play four whole quarters of football in the making and made fans explode in celebration following the lackluster performance against CAR. Prescott's rating jumped to 95.4 and he wasn't sacked during the contest. Even still, he threw the ball for 10 fewer yards than in week 1 and was 1.5% less on his completion percentage too.

Prescott’s best defense is the Cowboys' lack of stand-out wide receivers. The loss of Jason Witten and Dez Bryant – neither of whom has adequately been replaced – is the biggest cause of this perceived fall from grace. Those departures have undeniably created a problem, but one that many great quarterbacks over the years have managed to overcome.

While the doom and gloom felt by Cowboys Nation after week 1 has abated some with a victory over New York, for a franchise that has enjoyed the often wow-worthy play of Tony Romo, Dak Prescott has a way to go yet, to say the least.

Dak Prescott's Top 10 Plays of the Dallas Cowboys' 2016 Season

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

The current situation is difficult for the Cowboys, but there are also psychological mitigations. One of these is their presence in a division with the reigning Super Bowl winners, the Philadelphia Eagles.

This has long since put the Cowboys on the back foot in the futures betting markets, with an average moneyline price of +210 that makes them the least likely team to win the NFC East division. Unlike betting on individual games themselves, the futures market is a starker reflection of a team's form, rather than the more reactionary moneyline prices on individual games.

Criticism, from experts and fans alike, always intensifies after a defeat, and starting the season off at 1-1 isn't always enough to overcome said criticism. So too will the moneyline price of the Cowboys besting the Eagles lengthen, although the rewards for keeping faith in the Cowboys to do that – if they somehow do – will be all the more greater if they proceed to underachieve.

NFC East Preview 2018 | T2F Podcast

On this episode, we are joined by Jon Cassel, a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan, to discuss each team in the NFC East (Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles) going into the 2018 season. SUBSCRIBE to T2F for more football content! SUPPORT us through Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/Time2Football Follow us on social media!

Dak Prescott Needs Support Like Never Before

The likes of Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, Deonte Thompson and Allen Hurns aren’t going to be reaching the Hall of Fame, but they are more than capable of helping Dallas score more than 8 points in a game. Take away the opening-drive shot from week 2, the only TD pass Dak has thrown in 2018, and the Cowboys scored just 13 points against the Giants. It's hardly confidence inspiring, yet.

There have been numerous points so far where the Prescott of 2016 would have found the receiver, but for whatever reason, those throws just aren’t being made with any consistency right now. That is especially bad considering the breathing room that is given by an elite level running back, which can be found in the form of Ezekiel Elliott.

Zeke got the ball 15 times for 69 yards against CAR and 17 times for 78 yards against NYG, both of which have to be less than he would have liked. Yet, the Panthers were out to stop him, specifically, and the Cowboys offensive line couldn’t cope, which allowed Elliott to lack effectiveness and their quarterback to be put to the ground half a dozen times. The opening drive against the Giants certainly helped alleviate pressure on Prescott, but it's clear that the defense beat the Giants, overall.

These, however, are problems that an offensive coordinator needs to overcome, and Scott Linehan didn’t cover himself in glory either.

Ultimately, above all else, there seems to be a bit of disunity within the offense. The receivers feel unloved, the running backs face a lot of defenders on each play, and the quarterback must improve his accuracy.

These situations are where you need creative play calling and a unique approach.

Dak Prescott & Ezekiel Elliott: Top 5 Moments of The 2016 Cowboys Season

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

Spirit of 2016 Can Still Make an Impact

With every defeat, the next game is hugely important, in the mind if not on paper. If the Cowboys can step up and convincingly rack up some wins, then – as ever – it will start to go quiet.

One aspect that sometimes goes overlooked is the defense. Conceding 16 points against Carolina and 13 against New York should usually be more than low enough to secure a win. Thus, if the Cowboys keep up that level of performance, then they should win a lot more games than they lose. But that's because most offenses in the NFL are capable of scoring 20-or-more points a game. With the Cowboys defense performing as they have been thus far, the onus is on the offense the close out games.

There's a reason the quarterback position is regarded far above all others, and Prescott needs to carry the team with him to keep that winning feeling in the Cowboys’ locker room.

He needs to give the opposition’s defensive line more to think about, and make them fear the pass as much as Elliott’s or his own rushing ability. That will give his receivers more confidence and Elliott more space. If his offensive line isn’t doing its job then he and Linehan need to think of ways to get the ball out quickly and on target.

Doom and gloom often surrounds any first loss of a season, but if Prescott and Elliott can work together as they did in their first win of the season, then it’s going to be very hard to beat them, especially if their defense keeps playing to such high standards as they have.

Regardless, the Super Bowl is anything but a lock at this point, and the problems need to be fixed quickly, before "distant" becomes mathematically "impossible."



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Star Blog

Can WR Brice Butler Help Improve Cowboys Passing Game?

Brian Martin

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Can WR Brice Butler Help Improve Cowboys Passing Game?

In a somewhat confusing move, the Dallas Cowboys decided to re-add Wide Receiver Brice Butler to the roster in order to get something more out of the passing game, which to be honest has been pretty putrid in the first two games of the 2018 season. Something needed to be done, but I'm not sure that Butler is the answer.

I'm going to agree with my fellow Staff Writer, Jess Haynie, in saying that the Cowboys decision to reunite with Brice Butler makes no sense. Jess is actually much more polite than I would've been when I initially found out about this transaction. I personally hate the move and I'm not afraid to say it. But ultimately, it wasn't my decision to make and the only thing that really matters here is whether or not Butler can help improve the passing game?

With all of the questions surrounding the Cowboys receivers, Butler's addition just adds another one. Unfortunately, we are two games into the 2018 season and the receiver position still remains the biggest unknown. No one has really stepped up their game and with the exception of Tavon Austin's touchdown catch last week, there hasn't been any big plays in the passing game.

I don't really know how Brice Butler is supposed to improve things. Is he supposed to be the "go to" receiver now? Is he any better than what the Cowboys already have on the roster? Or, will he end up being more of a progress stopper? Like I said, he just adds more questions to be answered.

I for one don't see any upside in adding Butler. Yes, Quarterback Dak Prescott has a bond with him, but nothing ever really materialized there when #19 was here previously. He showed flashes, like he has at all of his stops in the NFL, but his inconsistencies couldn't convince the coaching staff to play him more. So, what's changed?

Brice Butler, Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys WR Brice Butler

The obvious answer here would be the subtraction of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten in the passing game. That's quite a bit of production missing that has yet to be accounted for. But again, I am still not buying into the Butler addition as a solution.

I know it sounds like I'm slamming Brice Butler pretty hard, but there was a time when I wanted to see him on the field more. Like many of you, the past few seasons I wanted to see him receive a promotion over Terrance Williams, but unfortunately that never happened. But, that was then and this is now.

Personally, I would much rather see Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, or Michael Gallup be worked more into the offensive game plan. I just feel that we have already seen what Brice Butler has to offer and it just wasn't good enough for him to stick around before. It's time to move forward, not back.

There is a reason Butler was a free agent. I mean, he wasn't even good enough to stick with Arizona Cardinals, who probably have more problems at WR than the Cowboys. But who knows? Maybe I'll end up being wrong and he'll finally play up to his true potential and talent. Wouldn't that be great?

Now, this is just one person's opinion, but I just don't see Brice Butler improving the passing game for the Dallas Cowboys. I think the only way that happens is if Dak Prescott reaches the next phase in his development. Until then, I don't see things improving much. But, that's an article for another time.

How do you feel about the Dallas Cowboys reuniting with Brice Butler?



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Despite Seattle’s Record, Sunday Is No Cakewalk For Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Blog - 2016 Contract-Year Cowboys: DT David Irving 2

As Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw a game-ending pick six on national television Monday night, all of Cowboys Nation was suddenly giddy.

Somehow, the team which looked completely lost and inept offensively to open the season was now staring down a chance at a 3-1 start if they could take care of back-to-back winless teams.

The first of those winless foes being the Seattle Seahawks.

Though the last 5 years or so have conditioned us to believe that Seattle is a defensive minded, physical football team, more recent history suggests they’ve fallen off quite a bit. No longer are prime Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor patrolling their secondary, or are waves of top tier defensive linemen cycling through during the game.

Now, the Seahawks are defined by a shaky offensive line, a lack of playmakers on the perimeter, and Russell Wilson hero-ball.

It’s an odd, and typically ineffective formula for winning games, but it’s the one the 0-2 Seahawks are currently stuck with.

Despite all of this, however, Sunday’s game will be an important test for the Cowboys. Though they were favored by 3 points last week, this game is the first time in 2018 that Dallas is truly “expected” to win. Ironically, they come in as Vegas underdogs, but it’s difficult to find informed football analysts who are on Seattle this Sunday.

This, of course, has more to do with how poor Seattle has played to open their season, but they’ve still been incredibly competitive in both losses, losing both games by just one possession.

Going to Seattle and getting a win is a task teams have dreaded for years, even before Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom brought the Seahawks back to relevancy.Earl Thomas, Seahawks

Now when you add in factors such as this being Seattle’s home opener, and that they will be desperately fighting to avoid a potential season-killing 0-3 start, this is shaping up to be a very tough test for the Cowboys.

The young Cowboys need to handle their business the next two weeks and take advantage of 0-2 conference foes. These games will be huge down the stretch for potential playoff tie breakers and give them a chance to “fatten up” before entering the more challenging parts of their schedule.

Like two match ups with the Philadelphia Eagles, and running the rest of the NFC South gauntlet during the later months of the year.



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