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.
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.
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?
Free Agent WR Allen Hurns Plans to Sign With Cowboys
It looks as if the Dallas Cowboys will be adding yet another wide receiver through free agency. According to sources, Allen Hurns plans on signing with the Cowboys.
WR Allen Hurns just told me, "I'm going to sign with Dallas." #Cowboys
This is a move that seemed unlikely after the Cowboys signed Deonte Thompson a few days ago, but I know a lot of Cowboys Nation will be excited about this transaction.
While this move is exciting, it does create more confusion for the Cowboys and their wide receivers. It's difficult to imagine all of these WRs sticking to the roster, which means there will be some tough decisions that need to be made.
What will the Cowboys do with Dez Bryant?
Will Cole Beasley be cut or traded?
Are the Cowboys comfortable absorbing Terrance Williams' cap hit if traded or released?
Will this keep the Cowboys from drafting a WR early?
All of these questions and more will have to be answered eventually. But, one thing is for sure, things are definitely about to get interesting.
Of course, there is a bonus here for the Dallas Cowboys. Since Allen Hurns was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he doesn't count against the Cowboys compensatory picks next season.
Please stay tuned and we will continue to keep you updated on contract details and any other news involving Allen Hurns as it becomes available.
What do you think about the Allen Hurns signing?
What Signing Thompson Means for Hurns and Cowboys WR Position
UPDATE: News of Hurns saying he will sign with the Cowboys broke as this article went live.
Free Agency began a bit late for the Dallas Cowboys, but they've already done enough to get fans discussing about the latest additions to the roster. Adding help on offense, defense and special teams in form of tier-2 free agents may not be what Cowboys Nation wants to see, but I'm certain they wouldn't have enjoyed giving Sammy Watkins a three-year $48M contract, either.
However, the Cowboys are clearly in the wide receiver market after an offensively disappointing season. They have quite a few of this year's class of wide receivers prospects scheduled to visit Dallas, and they've hosted some WR free agents as well.
This week, they even signed one.
Deonte Thompson, who started seven games for the Bills last year, is coming to Dallas on a one-year $2.5M contract. The 29-year old could be the burner receiver this offense is missing and could end up being an improved version of Brice Butler for the Cowboys in 2018.
He hasn't had a great career but last season was his best year so far. Starting three games for the Bears and seven for the Bills, Thompson was able to rack up a career-high 555 yards and two touchdowns.
His best attribute as a player is definitely the speed he brings to the table and his ability to separate down the field, which he'll be looking to do on Dak Prescott's offense this season.
But there was another wide receiver visiting Dallas this week and now we wonder whether or not the Deonte Thompson signing will keep the Cowboys from targeting former Jaguars' WR Allen Hurns.
According to Todd Archer, that won't be the case.
Told the signing of Deonte Thompson does not close the door on the Cowboys' interest in Allen Hurns, who visited the team Wednesday and had dinner. Things could get interesting in the Cowboys' wide receivers' room. https://t.co/Ivt5uk9kBN
It shouldn't be. First of all, Hurns is a much better player than Thompson and would provide this offense with a receiver who can play in the "X" or in the "Z" role. We've been talking about getting Prescott a reliable target to try to give him a "best friend." Allen Hurns could be just that.
Sure, he's had a couple of down seasons, but the talent is there to take.
Simply put, the Deonte Thompson signing shouldn't stop the Cowboys from looking at WR in the first round of the NFL Draft. Allen Hurns would.
It sure would make things interesting in the wide receiver room for Dallas. Despite what many believe, Dez Bryant will probably remain a Cowboy even if Hurns is signed. Let's say the Cowboys go out there and get the 26-year old from Jacksonville and have to decide which six receivers to keep for the season.
They'd possibly have to decide among these:
- Dez Bryant
- Terrrance Williams
- Cole Beasley
- Ryan Switzer
- Allen Hurns
- Deonte Thompson
- Noah Brown
- A drafted rookie?
This is where a lot of dilemmas start taking form. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer are basically the same player and if you're not going to use them both at the same time, do you keep them anyway? What about Terrance Williams? He could be the worst receiver to make the cut just because of his contract.
Noah Brown showed promise in 2017, are they ready to move on from him? And finally, a rookie could very well end up beating Deonte Thompson, who was guaranteed a million in his contract.
Wide receiver is indeed one of the top needs for the Dallas Cowboys. They could head to the 2018 NFL Draft needing one in the top rounds or they could be fine signing Hurns and taking a late-rounder receiver to compete in training camp for a spot on the roster.
As long as they're having a tough time deciding because they are all good, it should be fine.
Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson
The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.
Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.
The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.
Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.
Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.
For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.
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