The Denver Broncos captured the historic Super Bowl 50 title thanks to a defense that absolutely dominated the Carolina Panthers - led by MVP Von Miller who recorded 2.5 sacks and forced a fumble that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
The Broncos forced 7 turnovers this postseason, which translates to 7 extra possessions for Peyton Manning - a QB that desperately needed these extra chances on some short fields.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys 2015 defense was completely starved of turnovers. Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel very rarely saw the luxury of a short-field off an extra possession provided by the Dallas defense.
The 12-4 Cowboys of 2014 had a field day on short fields generated by 31 takeaways. In 2015, the team saw just 11 takeaways.
However, throughout the season, the Cowboys defensive unit did show some very positive signs for the future. While the impact play makers weren't there like they were for the Broncos, the Dallas defense ranked fifth in passing yards allowed per game and 22nd against the rush.
It is important to note that, with that rushing defense, the Cowboys saw the 7th most rushing attempts against them this year due to opposing offenses playing with the lead against the Cowboys. Even still, they gave up fewer yards than three teams who saw more attempts against them - one of which being the Philadelphia Eagles.
It was pointed out throughout the season that Rod Marinelli's defensive scheme is better suited to be on the field with the Cowboys ahead in the game. Assuming we see plenty of that upon the return of Tony Romo, let's examine just how close this Dallas defense could be in 2016 to the intimidating, game-wrecking force that was the Denver Broncos in 2015.
The Broncos defense starts and ends with their bookend pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. The two of them combined for 8.5 sacks this postseason.
The same can be said about the Cowboys defensive front. We spent much of the time leading up to this season hyping up a defensive line that could terrorize quarterbacks with the likes of Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, rookie Randy Gregory, free-agent acquisition Greg Hardy, Jeremy Mincey and Nick Hayden.
The unit was a massive disappointment overall, recording just 31 sacks - three more than the team had in 2014.
However, Randy Gregory missed four games early in the season and was never the same after returning from his ankle injury. For an edge rusher, the ability to turn on that ankle comfortably is so important. Without that, Gregory's rookie campaign was essentially derailed before it could truly get started.
DeMarcus Lawrence equally appeared to be heading towards a disappointing season, recording just three sacks through the first 12 weeks of the season before finishing the year strong with 5 sacks in his final 5 games.
While no tandem currently in the league compares to Ware and Miller, a refreshed Gregory paired with a surging Lawrence could be the makings of something special around the edges for the Cowboys defensive line.
In the middle, Tyrone Crawford will hope to see a healthy 2016 after playing through immense pain all this season, and David Irving should find a role next to him at defensive tackle as well.
Whether the team decides to resign Greg Hardy or not, the Cowboys defensive line could be a much-improved unit in 2016.
The Broncos defensive domination does not stop along the line. Linebackers Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan make a formidable duo, with Trevathan leading the team with 109 tackles, and Marshall not far behind with 102.
The Cowboys found their own dynamic duo at this position with Sean Lee and Rolando McClain. There is no question that this defense is a different unit with and without "The General" Lee on the field, and getting him back for 15 games was a refreshing site.
McClain benefited greatly from having Lee out there, as he put together a very solid season after serving his initial four game suspension. Anthony Hitchens took another step forward, while Damien Wilson went from a training camp star to a player that barely saw the field in 2015.
If McClain returns alongside Lee in 2016, the Cowboys have their foundation at this position. Hitchens will only see more and more playing time, while Wilson can aim to once again put together a great training camp and earn some more playing time.
There is also the strong possibility that the team will use the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft at this position, by selecting Myles Jack out of UCLA. Jack would add even more speed and athleticism to the Dallas front seven.
The Cowboys' secondary has been a relative sore spot for a long time now. Yet, perhaps the best thing this entire team gave us in 2015 was rookie safety Byron Jones. With that said, Dallas has a long way to go to make this secondary a championship caliber unit.
Morris Claiborne put together his best season as a Cowboy in 2015, but it is uncertain as to if it was good enough to earn him another contract. The free agent corner will likely test the market, and likely encounter teams desperate enough at the position to offer much more than the Cowboys are willing to.
Across from Claiborne is Brandon Carr, who essentially needs no further introduction. Anyone following the Cowboys has known about Carr's struggles since joining the team. While he put together some solid performances this season down the stretch, the Cowboys may finally be preparing to move on from Carr.
However, Dallas does welcome back Orlando Scandrick from a torn ACL in 2016. Scandrick is the team's best cover corner, so he will certainly provide a nice boost. Assuming they find a way to bring back Claiborne, and the pass rush is as improved as it could be, the two of them could start the makings of a solid secondary.
Backing them up would be Deji Olatoye and Terrance Mitchell, who both looked impressive near the end of this season. Byron Jones and Barry Church can lock down the safety positions, while an upgrade to the secondary could also come in the draft - as high as fourth overall.
The buzz around Jalen Ramsey out of Florida State has been enormous, and the prospect of playing him alongside Jones (or moving Jones down to corner) certainly adds an element of excitement to a Cowboys secondary that could desperately use it.
So, how close is the Cowboys defense to replicating what the Broncos just put together?
Not far off. While the answer will surprise some people, I feel that this team is one more elite pass rusher away from being very similar to Denver's unit.
The Broncos secondary is very solid, but not an all-world secondary by any stretch. They did get the luxury of playing behind a defensive front that was constantly forcing rushed throws - much like the Cowboys secondary could be doing in 2016. With the front seven leading the way, I think a resurgence from Orlando Scandrick can go a long way in turning this Dallas defense into a unit that can single handily win games.
Obviously, elite pass rushers don't grow on trees in Jerry Jones' backyard, but there are some interesting names available through free agency and the draft. If the Cowboys can find whatever it takes to add that final piece along the defensive line, we could be talking about a team that plays in Houston for Super Bowl 51 - thanks to it's defense.
So, what do YOU expect from the Dallas Cowboys defense in 2016? More turnovers, sacks? Let me know by leaving a comment below! Also be sure to tune into "Upon Further Review" tomorrow at 1 ET! (Click the banner above for more info).
How The Seattle Seahawks Have Increased Importance In Cowboys’ Lore
You can't talk about this decade's Dallas Cowboys without discussing the Seattle Seahawks.
In 2012, when Golden Tate took out Sean Lee on a crack-back block and the Seahawks embarrassed a Cowboys team who had just defeated the defending champion New York Giants, we saw which of the two teams was truly ready for the big stage.
In 2014, as Rolando McClain intercepted Russell Wilson and the Cowboys clinched a critical road victory, we knew that Dallas was a legit contender.
In 2015, when Seattle finally came to Dallas and rendered the return of Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant meaningless in a 13-12 win, the then 2-5 Cowboys were sent further into a Romo-less abyss.
And, in 2017, Dez Bryant's key drops and Dan Bailey's missed field goals during a horrendous home loss to the Seahawks on Christmas Eve might have sealed each of their fates for the following offseason.
The most important moment in this Cowboys/Seahawks history, however, occurred during a preseason game. A meaningless preseason game which turned out to be the most meaningful day in recent Cowboys history.
Cliff Avril dragging Tony Romo down from behind, effectively ending his career, and kicking off the roster massive turnover we have seen the last two offseasons. From Dak Prescott, to a brand new secondary, to the retirement of Jason Witten, and the cutting of Dez Bryant. All of this change, which put an end to the Romo era rosters in Dallas, began with that hit in Seattle.
Since 2012 the Cowboys, and the rest of the NFC really, have been judged by how they play against two teams: the Packers and the Seahawks.
They have been the class of the NFC, and while we like to think that if the "Dez Caught It" game went how it should have Dallas would've handled Seattle, that will forever be an unknown.
Sunday's game is not expected to carry the franchise-changing implications that some of these other match ups have had. The Seahawks are 0-2 and reeling, with a shaky offensive line and reported distrust throughout the organization.The Cowboys, however, can jump-start their season with a big road win over a winless team that they should beat in the minds of many.
But knowing how things between these teams tend to go, Sunday afternoon may end up having major implications on the rest of the Cowboys' season.
Where this could be the case is in a potential Earl Thomas trade. It's been speculated that Seattle has been hesitant to deal Thomas to Dallas before their week 3 match up, but could be more willing to do so after the game.
Especially if that game is a loss which sends them to 0-3. The Cowboys have been actively pursuing Earl Thomas, and Thomas has certainly made it clear that he wants to be in Dallas. The only party not willing to make it happen thus far, are the Seahawks.
So, this weekend, there is a chance another chapter is added to those franchise-changing moments in Cowboys/Seahawks lore.
A Look Around The NFC East: Week 3
Week two didn't go as planned for much of the NFC East, with only the Dallas Cowboys reigning victorious last Sunday.
Now, three teams are locked in a tie for first place at 1-1, with the New York Giants lagging behind with a winless record. Week 3 is shaping up to be a potential early turning point, however, with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz returning and each team facing a very beatable opponent.
Let's take a look around the division and see what the Cowboys' foes will be facing this week.
The Eagles fell victim to one of the more surprising upsets of the weekend last Sunday, as Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Eagles 27-21. While their defense got off to a shaky start in the loss, it was the offense which proved too little too late in their push down the stretch.
Carson Wentz is expected to not only return but to start on Sunday in the Eagles' match up against the Colts. Indianapolis upset the Washington Redskins last week, but will be 6 point underdogs when the game kicks off in Philadelphia on Sunday.
Wentz should give the defending champs an extra boost, and while they haven't looked as dominant as many expected through the first two games, this could be the game to spring them the rest of the way.
As mentioned earlier, the Redskins fell in Indianapolis last week, and are now tied for first place in the division with a 1-1 record. As dominant and impressive as Washington looked in their opener against Arizona, Washington's week two loss featured lethargic offensive play for four quarters.
This week the Redskins are three point home underdogs as Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers come to town. Green Bay tied Minnesota a week ago, but behind Rodgers and their potent offense, they have the chance to take advantage of Washington's suspect secondary down the field.
Sunday will be a tough test for the Redskins as they look to get back above .500 against a tough conference opponent.
New York Giants
The Giants' season is on the brink this week, and that really isn't a dramatic statement at all. Now at 0-2 with a division loss to the Cowboys last week, the Giants have to beat the 0-2 Texans on Sunday to get some confidence and keep pace within the conference.
Lucky for them, the Texans haven't looked impressive whatsoever through two games. Unlucky for them, the Texans have strong pass rushers like JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney ready to abuse their weak offensive line.
Houston is a six point home favorite over the Giants, proving it will be an uphill battle for New York to save their season.
Cowboys en Español: La Defensiva de Dallas es Muy Real
Después de dos semanas de acción de los Dallas Cowboys, una cosa ha quedado más que clara. La defensiva del coordinador defensivo Rod Marinelli ha demostrado que es realmente buena. No como en otros años, que nos conformábamos con que la defensiva dejará avanzar y cediera tres puntos hasta que se rompía en el último cuarto.
No, ahora es diferente. Este año, los Dallas Cowboys tienen presión al QB opuesto. No sólo DeMarcus Lawrence, sino Taco Charlton, Randy Gregory y recientemente, los linebackers. Hemos visto a Jaylon Smith y Damien Wilson brindar presión y sobre todo, llegar a sus objetivos.
Los linebackers no han brillado sólo en esto, sino en otros ámbitos defensivos, como cobertura aérea y más. Incluso Joe Thomas ha logrado mantener su nivel que vimos en pretemporada cuando se le ha pedido entrar al campo.
Y en cuanto a la secundaria, no podríamos estar más agradecidos con la actuación de nuestros cornerbacks. Byron Jones está jugando a un nivel increíble. La semana pasada, Eli Manning sólo se atrevió a lanzar el balón en su dirección en cinco ocasiones. En esas cinco, consiguió sólo un pase completo para cero yardas. Chidobe Awuzie también ha tenido un gran inicio al 2018, manteniendo un nivel de juego consistente y efectivo. Estamos hablando de que el domingo pasado, estos dos cornerbacks se enfrentaron a uno de los mejores WR en la NFL, Odell Beckham Jr.
Finalmente, la posición de safety se ha visto como la unidad más débil en la defensiva. Jeff Heath es un titular promedio y Kavon Frazier tiene mucho camino por recorrer. Afortunadamente, hay esperanza de que Xavier Woods regrese de lesión este domingo.
A pesar de que en el 2016 todos veíamos a la ofensiva como nuestro futuro, es sorprendente el nivel que ha mostrado la defensiva. Es más agresiva, más efectiva y más confiable que en otros años. No podemos subestimar la llegada del coach Kris Richard al equipo.
Sobre todo después de que en el partido contra los New York Giants y los Carolina Panthers se demostró que Richard está involucrado directamente con las decisiones de las jugadas que se ejecutarán en el campo. Incluso Marinelli no tuvo problemas admitiendo que efectivamente, Richard estaba ganándose un rol en este aspecto.
Esto es muy relevante para los Dallas Cowboys, pues una de las cosas más destacadas que hemos visto las últimas semanas es el usaje de cargas o "blitzes" especiales en varias oportunidades. Incluyendo tercer down y largo.
Es algo que no habíamos visto nunca con el conservador Marinelli y que claramente es producto de Richard. Este personaje que viene de los Seattle Seahawks continua emergiendo como un candidato real al puesto de coordinador defensivo en el 2019 o quien sabe, quizá sea nombrado head coach si las cosas comienzan a ir mal para este equipo.
Sin duda alguna, la defensiva ha demostrado que es muy confiable y real. Es tiempo de que la ofensiva de Dallas responda a esto y comience a mover más las cadenas y sobre todo, aprovechar las oportunidades que tengan de anotar touchdowns. Empezar a depender de goles de campo nunca sale bien.
Sobre la llegada de Brice Butler
Increíblemente, Brice Butler regresó a los Dallas Cowboys, incluso después de todos los comentarios que hizo en ciertos programas de televisión. La primera reacción al respecto fue de confusión; ¿por qué regresar con un receptor que nunca fue tan especial y que habló tanto de Dallas?
La respuesta a esta pregunta se esclareció un poco este jueves por la noche cuando surgieron los rumores de que Terrance Williams, quien fue arrestado en el offseason por intoxicación pública, podría ser suspendido pronto por la NFL.
Esto probablemente no sucederá antes del partido de la semana 3, pero de todas maneras explica mucho sobre el último movimiento de los Cowboys.
En un partido bastante cerrado, creo que la defensiva de los Dallas Cowboys hará lo suficiente para llevarse la victoria. Es de suma importancia derribar a Russell Wilson y sobre todo, que la ofensiva tenga su mejor actuación de la campaña. La defensiva de Seahawks es bastante efectiva y no será sencillo vencerlos.
Marcador: Dallas Cowboys 21 - Seattle Seahawks 17
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