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How Did The Cowboys Defense Get So Broken?

How did we get here?

Once upon a time, 2019 seemed like the most promising Dallas Cowboys season in years. Loads of talent across the roster, a real franchise quarterback surrounded by explosive weapons, and a defense coming off a championship level run at the end of 2018.

Their division was favorable, their schedule not too daunting, and the conference wide open for a team like Dallas to go and win it.

Now we sit here with the Cowboys at 6-7. A below average football team that is 3-7 since their fast 3-0 start in September. The season is lost, the team is broken, and everyone involved seems to just want this year to end.

For all the troubles of these 2019 Cowboys, those on the defense feel the most debilitating. During Thursday night’s loss to the Chicago Bears, Dallas allowed what has been a bad offense to completely control them for four quarters. Mitch Trubisky did everything and anything he wanted to, and the Cowboys had no answers for one of the least prolific offenses in all of football.

They were, once again, embarrassed. For all the big contracts which have been given out to players like DeMarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith, and for all the hype we attach to guys like Xavier Woods and Chidobe Awuzie – this defense is awful.

How did they get this bad?

Regression was expected from last year, yes, but becoming this level of bad is shocking. To be frank, it stems from a front office which has completely ignored two position groups which are now killing this team: defensive tackle and safety.

Dallas is terrible up the middle of their defense. For as much criticism as Jaylon Smith has received this year (much of it deserved), these defensive tackles do him no favors at all. They are constantly pushed into the linebackers’ laps, muddying the reads and giving free yards to opposing rushing offenses. And it’s not like they are creating much pass rush pressure, either.

Then there is the safety group. Xavier Woods is a nice player to be sure, but the combination of him and Jeff Heath or Darian Thompson is simply not good enough.

In fact, it’s one of the worst safety groups in the NFL.

Dallas had the chance to go and spend to add a big time safety, or to draft a playmaking safety in the second round a year ago. Instead they decided to roll with what they got. And what they’ve gotten is steamrolled by offenses week in and week out.

This unit, and this team, are broken.

And I’m not sure that one coaching change is going to fix it.

What do you think?

Kevin Brady

Written by Kevin Brady

Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.


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  1. Hey Kevin you hit the nail on the head with your comments on cowboy defense. I just wonder why this problem isn’t addressed by the front office. A football general manger with full authority would be the place to start but that isn’t going to happen so we have 10 more years of mediocracy.

  2. Part of it is real simple. The first four games the corners played man bump and run defense and since then you see them bailing on the play at the snap or before. Thus giving the receiver a free release off the line of scrimmage into their route. This has opened up the holding calls and the pass interference calls on the defensive backs.The tackling has become try to take th e ball away before you stop the runner and lack of lane discipline.

  3. Juan Thornhill truly seemed like the pick to make. I’m no scout. However, if you read all of the comments be various sites he never seemed to come up short. They may have missed on the 2nd round pick they actually made, however, it is stated Tristan Hill, gives effort. David Irving was not much to notice when he started, but took awhile to develop into a force (when he was on the field). I am hopeful that Hill will likewise develop. So, I had no problem with either position being drafted in round 2 that is posed by the author’s hypothesis..

    There is nothing better to disrupt a quarterback and an offense than defensive tackles generating pass rush that also fulfill their rush duties and he was it. They can step in front of a DE’s rush, but have few places to go if a DT is in his face. If during the off season, the Cowboys can change the NFL’s marijuana policy we could perhaps get Irving to return as well as Gregory at DE. Quinn is rated low by PFF because he honors no rush responsibilities, so money can’t go there, neither does Collins and he shouldn’t be paid what he will get elsewhere.

    Dallas has so many needs it must take the BFA in the first round except at RB, WR and OL with an eye that QB is the top priority. This includes Dak as he is not a franchise quarterback. His accuracy is not to a level that he can take it to the promised land, and never will be. He will never develop consistent touch on a deep ball, he rarely hits receivers in stride and often stops them with passes that are too low or high to advance after the catch. It would be awful to adversely effect the salary cap for years on an average quarterback who wants paid like a top five. We have two supreme wide receivers, Gallup is the next superstar with a good quarterback. Blake Jarwin has potential to be as good as any with more blocking capability. QB is where we should target in the 1st round in 2020 if one is worth the value. Trade Dak for a draft pick and spare the cap for years, especially in light of the money spent on Zeke (discussed below).

    We are are at the point these positions don’t matter much until Jerry stops undermining coaches and hires a coach who is the preeminent voice in the locker room. As a Cowboys fan, it is far too often that you can predict the play, and far too seldom when you find a play innovative. I saw a college game the other day where the quarterback draw was used earlier in the game to set up what appeared to be a quarterback draw only to have the QB rise and hit a receiver in the seem past the drawn-in defense. Where is a play like this (or the Tony Romo rise up to pass and then flip to the back coming around that worked consistently effectively in the past.

    They finally seem to be able to evaluate talent in the draft every since Jerry relinquished more control beginning with drafting Dez, and especially when Jerry was convinced not to take Manziel instead of one of the two best guards in football. They still make large errors such as signing Zeke as running backs are easily found (ask New Orleans and Green Bay for recent evidence). PFF states Zeke is one of the worst at breaking tackles and YAC. Hopefully, the coaching will get better and Jerry will stay out of the way! Then, DT and S become more relevant.

  4. Makes no matter if it is football, base ball, soccer, etc. you build your defense strongly up the middle. Dallas has good personnel on the edges but the other teams will find and attack your weakness. Dallas draft a big stud dt like A Donald and a stud strong safety like J Adams. Also your o-line is no longer the best in the league. PROBLEMS!

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