Coming into the 2016 season, many prognosticated the downfall of the Dallas Cowboys would be its defense. One of the primary reasons being the play of the secondary.
There's Brandon Carr with this huge contract he still couldn't live up to, which he had to redo just so the team would keep him. Orlando Scandrick, who many felt was the best cornerback on the team, was coming back from a serious knee injury. Morris Claiborne, the sixth pick of the 2012 draft, had struggled to remain healthy and been labeled a “bust” by many in and around the league.
On top of it all, the team was said to be counting on the rookie cornerback Anthony Brown from the University of Purdue as well.
“Things don't look too great,” they said.
“Couldn't be done,” they said.
They're just not able to compete with the likes of Eli Manning, Kirk Cousins, and Aaron Rodgers slinging the pigskin around, at least that's what those people who make the big bucks said. And all that was said before they started talking about the back-end of the secondary
The ‘Boys did have hope in the promising second-year player, Byron Jones. However, Jones moved around the secondary so much his rookie year that nobody knew what to expect from him after moving to safety full-time.
Barry Church — although serviceable — was viewed as a guy just waiting to be replaced at some point. And last but not least, J.J. Wilcox; the man who had people thinking he would take a bad angle while walking to the bathroom.
There was just no way possible that these bunch of has-been and never-was players could do much of anything this year, right? Oh, but how wrong those football Nostradamus's out there were.
Those same players: Carr, Scandrick, Claiborne, Brown, Jones, Church, and Wilcox messed around and scored the highest ranking in the entire league, at least according to Pro Football Focus. Not the NFC East, not the NFC, but the NFL. Take a look at what PFF has for them…
Dallas Cowboys (Current Rank: 1, Rank entering Week 7: 4)
Top overall grade: S Barry Church, 86.2 (No. 9 among safeties)
Top coverage grade: CB Morris Claiborne, 85.1 (No. 12 among CBs)
Top run-defense grade: S Barry Church, 86.0 (No. 11)
Most snaps: CB Brandon Carr, 1,013
Along with those PFF grades, the Cowboys defense has pretty decent stats in passing defense. The Cowboys rank 12th overall in yards allowed and sixth in the league in yards allowed per attempt. Not too shabby for a group that was supposed to be the “weak link.”
When you play on a team with one of the best, if not the best offense in the league, it's understandable that you're not going to be talked about first when the Dallas Cowboys come up in conversation. But the way this defense has played this year, when they talk about the secondary it doesn't come with the words “weak link” attached to them anymore.