Yesterday I shared with you who I believe are the Dallas Cowboys top 10 offensive players currently on the roster, and today I want to do the same on the defensive side of the ball. We all know that the Cowboys haven’t invested as much in defense as they have on offense, but that doesn’t mean they’re not talented there as well.
I found it a little bit more difficult to narrow down my top 10 defensive players then I did the offensive one’s, and I’m sure you will disagree with how I have some of them ranked. But, that just opens up the discussion to debate. You can use the comment section located at the end of the article to do just that.
#10 – DB, Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods wasn’t a starter as a rookie, but that doesn’t diminish the impact he made in the Dallas Cowboys secondary in his first year in the NFL. He was kind of a do it all defensive back last year and ended up performing like a player that should’ve been drafted much sooner than the sixth-round. He is in line to become one of the starting safeties this year and I expect him to have a great season in 2018.
#9 – LB, Jaylon Smith
It may be a little bit of a stretch to put Jaylon Smith in the top 10 considering he’s only played one full season in the NFL, but I believe his arrow is trending upward. We saw flashes of the player he once was at Notre Dame last season, which on its own probably makes him one of the best defensive players on the roster. But, his health has improved even more and we should see a much improved player. He could be used as both a traditional linebacker and a pass rusher this season.
#8 – CB, Jourdan Lewis
When coming out of Michigan last year all you heard about Jourdan Lewis was that he was a cornerback who possesses first-round talent, but will slide due to his lack of ideal height/length. Well, that proved to be true, but it didn’t stop the Cowboys from drafting him. He went on and had a fantastic rookie season and might just have been the best CB on the roster last year. He is expected to be the nickel CB this year, but he should compete to start on the outside as well.
#7 – S, Jeff Heath
I’ve been critical of Jeff Heath in the past, but I do believe he is one of the Dallas Cowboys best defensive players currently on the roster. He has the trust of the coaching staff and for good reason. He is reliable and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He’s never going to blow you away with his athleticism, but you’re not going to find him out of position. Plus, he’s not a bad backup kicker either.
#6 – CB, Chidobe Awuzie
I’ve heard the nonsense of possibly moving Chidobe Awuzie to safety, but I think that would be a mistake because he is a chance to be one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. He struggled to get on the field early as a rookie due to reoccurring injuries, but once he did he proved why he was considered one of the best CBs in the 2017 draft class. He has the height/length to cover any WR in the NFL, but it’s his understanding of route concepts that puts him in a position to make a play on the ball.
#5 – CB, Byron Jones
Many Dallas Cowboys fans have already written off Byron Jones and labeled him as a first-round bust, but I believe they are mistaken. Jones has been forced to play out of position at safety due to need since arriving in Dallas, but we will finally be able to see him play where he feels most natural now that he is moving back to cornerback. I expect him to look like an entirely different player in 2018 and prove his doubters wrong.
#4 – DE/DT, Tyrone Crawford
Like Byron Jones, Tyrone Crawford receives a lot of hate from Dallas Cowboys fans. A lot of that has to do with him not really living up to his big money contract, but you can’t blame him for taking the money he was offered. His importance to the defense is due to his versatility. He is able to play DE or DT, and has done so at a relatively high level. He is at his best when playing the run, but he does offer a little bit as a pass rusher as well.
#3 – DT, David Irving
David Irving has mostly been a flash player the majority of his career. We would see moments of brilliance from him and then he would kind of disappear for stretches on end. Fortunately, it looks as if he was able to finally put everything together in 2017 and ended up being one of the best defensive tackles in the entire league. He still has to prove he can be consistent both on and off the field, but there is no denying he is one of the best defensive players the Cowboys have.
#2 – LB, Sean Lee
The only thing keeping Sean Lee from being the best Dallas Cowboys defender and possibly the best linebacker in the entire NFL is injuries. Unfortunately, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Typically players start sustaining more injuries the older they get and that didn’t bode well for Lee being able to stay healthy. But, his preparation and film study is second to none. He seems to know exactly where the ball is going before it is even snapped.
#1 – DE, DeMarcus Lawrence
For me, DeMarcus Lawrence is the Dallas Cowboys best defensive player. Because of a reoccurring back injury earlier in his career it took him a while to finally put it all together, but there’s no denying the Cowboys have finally found their “War Daddy”. He was arguably the most dominant defensive end in the NFL last year and I expect him to pick up where he left off.