I don't really know what the expectations were for the Dallas Cowboys defense heading into the 2017 season, but their performance has likely fallen below those expectations through the first four weeks. We can blame it on injuries, the influx of youth, or the players the Cowboys lost through free agency, but something needs to change and quickly.
Fortunately, there is really nowhere to go except up from here. I mean things of course could get worse, but there has been positive signs that has the arrow trending upwards.
For instance, DeMarcus Lawrence has been absolutely dominant as a pass rusher and a few of the rookies have far exceeded any expectations we probably had for them. Things might not be as bleak as we think.
We are all probably still in shock over what happened against the Los Angeles Rams last week and how the Cowboys defense let the game slip through their fingers. That's only natural, but it's important to remember that this isn't the same Rams team we are used to. They have already won almost as many games as they're used to winning in an entire season, and have looked pretty good doing it. I think it's important to keep that in mind, especially in regards to the Cowboys defense.
Fortunately though, reinforcements are on the way on the defensive side of the ball for the Cowboys. These players should help solidify things in both the running and passing game, and not a moment too soon.
No player is probably more important for the Cowboys defense then linebacker Sean Lee. His absence last week against the Rams really hurt the overall performance of the entire defense. I can almost guarantee that Todd Gurley wouldn't have racked up as many yards on the ground or through the air with #50 in the lineup. Sean Lee is that good!
Sean Lee might not be the only linebacker to return to the lineup. Word is Anthony Hitchens is nearly at full strength and could make his season debut against the Packers. He was making plays all over the field before his injury, and I don't expect that to change once he returns. Of course, the Cowboys coaching staff may decide to hold him out until after their bye week.
Defensive lineman David Irving will also be able to make his 2017 season debut after serving his four-game suspension. Irving's versatility to play anywhere along the defensive line will be a much-needed boost to the entire unit. One of his best games last year was against the Packers, and you can bet he wants a repeat performance this Sunday.
Reinforcements should also be added to the Cowboy secondary. Nolan Carroll and Chidobe Awuzie are both looking as if they will finally be healthy enough to rejoin the roster this week against the Packers. It's unclear what the roles may be, but having the CB position at full strength against Aaron Rodgers and his pass happy offense is never a bad thing.
Now, there is no way of knowing if the reinforcements for the Cowboys defense will improve the unit or not, but it's important in the fact that they are going to finally be at full strength. The defensive improvement may be hard to notice this week against a high-powered Packers offense, but I believe they will be better nonetheless.