When the Dallas Cowboys decided to go in a new direction at head coach, it led to a massive overhaul of the coaching staff as well. The other thing that changed was the philosophy of the defense. All offseason, the Dallas Cowboys have worked to improve the talent on a defense that was good in 2019, but not good enough at times as the team finished 8-8.
In free agency, the added Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe to bolster their interior defensive line. Then they added a slew of cornerbacks in free agency and the draft to try to replace Byron Jones and improve the overall depth at the position. Then they surprised everyone and added Aldon Smith to help them on the edge and be a versatile piece in their hopes to play versatile defensive fronts. Now the Dallas Cowboys made another surprise move, signing former Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowler Everson Griffen to a one-year deal last night.
While there has been excitement and intrigue over the signing of Aldon Smith, most realized that counting on a player who hasn’t played in five years was probably not the best plan. Sure he would give you a good upside player, but the Cowboys needed to look at finding a bonafide pass rusher to fill the void left by Robert Quinn in his departure for Chicago.
And that’s what the Everson Griffen signing did. With Griffen, the Cowboys got a guy who’s had at least eight sacks in a season six times in the last eight years. The two times he didn’t were in 2018 when he only played in 11 games but still had 5.5 sacks. And in 2013, when he played all 16 games but wasn’t a starter for Minnesota.
Since becoming a full-time starter in 2014, Griffen has played in at least 15 games five of those six seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in four of the last five seasons.
Per Pro Football Focus, Griffen was 13th among edge rushers in the NFL in 2019 in total quarterback pressures with 66, more than Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence. Everson Griffen also had more quarterback hits that the two leading pass rushers from 2019, finishing ninth among edge rushers with 14. When lined up on the right side of the defense, nobody had more pressures, hurries, or quarterback hits than Everson Griffen.
Now, Griffen plays exclusively on the right side, while other players might move back and forth depending on which side is the strong side of the offense or the matchup.
At 6-3, 275, Griffen has the size to be a factor in the run game as well. In 2019, he finished just 28th in run-stop percentage but was better than TJ Watt, Myles Garrett, Chandler Jones, and Cameron Jordan per Pro Football Focus. In 2018, he was the 11th among edge rushers in run-stop percentage.
By bringing in Everson Griffen, the Dallas Cowboys signed a player that, like DeMarcus Lawrence, doesn’t weaken your run defense when he’s on the field. He’s a true three-down player and can be disruptive in both the run and pass game.
Now the Dallas Cowboys will deploy a defensive line that features DeMarcus Lawrence, Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Everson Griffen in the starting lineup. Then they’ll be able to bring Aldon Smith, Neville Gallimore, Antwaun Woods, Trysten Hill, and Bradlee Anae or Dorance Armstrong off the bench.
The Dallas Cowboys learned in 2019 that a well-timed move to bring in a veteran could really make a major impact. Instead of trading for the player like they did in 2019 with Robert Quinn, they were able to get one of the best edge rushers available in the 2020 free-agent class. Everson Griffen, in addition to the other signings they made for the defensive line, significantly upgrades the defensive line from where it was in 2019.
Entering training camp, the Dallas Cowboys still had questions at cornerback and edge rusher. Through free agency and the draft, they provided enough options at cornerback that they should be able to find a suitable answer at cornerback.
The Dallas Cowboys answered the right defensive end question with an exclamation point by adding Everson Griffen. The games have to play out, and nothing is guaranteed, but this is a massive move for a team on the cusp of Super Bowl contention.