Sacks by Quarter: Where Do the Cowboys Need to Get More Pressure? ⋆
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Sacks by Quarter: Where Do the Cowboys Need to Get More Pressure?

Will Benson Mayowa Lose His Starting Job This Season? 2

Dallas Cowboys

Sacks by Quarter: Where Do the Cowboys Need to Get More Pressure?

Tim Heitman - USA TODAY Sports

Sacks by Quarter: Where Do the Cowboys Need to Get More Pressure?

The Dallas Cowboys struggled to get to the quarterback at times during the 2016 season. There were times they came up with the big play, like against Tampa Bay. And there were times, cough-Green Bay-cough, where they came up empty. Heading into this offseason, we knew that the Dallas Cowboys needed to do something about their pass rush.

In what quarter, though, do they need to improve in the sack department?

I looked at Pro Football Reference to see just where Dallas ranked in terms of sacks by quarter and I was a bit surprised by the numbers. Perhaps you will be too.

Dallas Pass Rush Can Improve in 2017

First Quarter Notes

  • Looking at the chart you’ll see that in the first quarter, Dallas was abysmal at getting to the quarterback.
  • The league average for sacks in the first quarter was 6.9. Three is just horrendous.
  • 18 of the NFL’s 32 teams had more than the 6.9 league average.
  • Something shocking to take away from this is that the Denver Broncos also had only three sacks in the first quarter of games. The difference is that Denver ranked 3rd in the NFL in total sacks, while Dallas ranked 13th. The Broncos made up for it elsewhere.
  • Dallas was the second worst team (to the New York Jets) in amount of yards given up per play in the first quarter. This led to shorter 3rd down distances, making it more difficult to think pass only.
  • With the keep away, ball-control style Dallas plays, the defense isn’t on the field as much and sees fewer opportunities to rush the passer.

Second Quarter Notes

  • In the second quarter they were about average (10.03) with their 10 sacks.
  • I’ve always believed that if the Dallas Cowboys could just be average on defense, with their offense, they would be a contender.
  • While they were average at sacking the quarterback, they were well behind the league leader, the Carolina Panthers, and their 19 sacks.

Third Quarter Notes

  • The league average for sacks in the third quarter was 8.5. Dallas finished just above the league average here with 9.
  • As they did in the first quarter, the Arizona Cardinals led the league in third quarter sacks with 14.

Fourth Quarter Notes

  • Dallas’ 18 sacks in the fourth quarter ranked second only to Denver’s 21.
  • Dallas was well ahead of the league average of 11.09 sacks.
  • This success is a testament to the Cowboys’ ability to get a lead. When a team has a lead, they will see more passing situations, which leads to more opportunities to create pressure and sacks.
Benson Mayowa

Dec 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Benson Mayowa (93) sacks Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

So, what are we to make of all this?

As you can tell by the chart, the second and fourth quarters’ league leader had many more sacks than the first and third quarters’ league leader. Likely do to the frequency of passing that happens in the last two minutes of the half, with teams in hurry up mode.

Like most teams, the defense can rush the passer better when it has a sizable lead. The split second it takes to diagnose the play prevents a pass rusher from getting up field to the quarterback when they have to think run also. When teams have to pass, defensive coordinators and pass rushers can get after the quarterback without having to think about the run.

While the fourth quarter numbers look good, watching the games, we know that the team can be more consistent in creating pressure. They were good at coming up with the big play most of the time, but there were also times when the quarterback had forever to throw the ball.

Where Can the Cowboys Improve?

Arizona, who led the league in sacks in 2016, finished inside the top seven in the NFL in total sacks per quarter. They were consistently good regardless of the time of the game.

The Dallas Cowboys need to be better at getting to the quarterback. Whether it’s the first quarter or the fourth quarter. If they can stop the run with greater consistency in the first three quarters, then they should get teams in longer third down situations. That will create more sack opportunities.

To become a championship defense, the Dallas Cowboys are going to have to be more consistent at getting to the quarterback. While the defensive line has a lot of question marks at this point, there is also a lot of promise.

Which defensive lineman will lead the team in sacks in 2017?

John Williams

Fantasy Football analyst for Inside The Star. You can follow me on Twitter @john9williams Send me your fantasy football draft, sit/start and add/drops questions.

6 Comments
  • Derek Robinson

    Dallas needs to get more pressure up the middle. And Malik Collins should solve that problem.

    • John Williams

      True, they also need to get more consistent winning around the EDGE as well. Rod’s defense is designed to win with 4. The front four needs to win more.

      • Derek Robinson

        Well John, I think with D-Law Healthy and the addition of Taco, and the right combination of guys. We both can have our cake and eat it to. But my sleeper is Malik Collins.

        • John Williams

          I think Maliek is about the only sure thing on the DL at this point. He showed enough in the second half of 2016 for me to think he is destined for a Pro Bowl selection in 2017.

          I’m putting him at about 7 sacks. Love Maliek. He will make the job easier on everyone as well if continues to progress. I think he is the guy we’ve been wanting Tyrone Crawford to be on the inside.

          • Derek Robinson

            Hey, John. What about Charles Tapper is it?

          • John Williams

            Tapper is an unknown my friend.

            I love the potential and he certainly produced in college even when out of position, and as an OU fan, I’m pumped for him to get his opportunity, but he’s still an unknown. We have to see him play.

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