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NFL Draft

Are Cowboys’ Defensive Improvements Here To Stay?

  • The Draft Network
  • September 28, 2021
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Don't look now, but the Dallas Cowboys have the look of an improved unit on the defensive side of the ball. Dallas' defense thrived in Monday night's blowout win over their NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles, forcing Jalen Hurts to commit two turnovers while holding Philadelphia to just 21 points.

It was an impressive victory over one of their main competitors for the NFC East division crown and it reflected well on Dallas' new-look defense, which is now under the tutelage of the respected Dan Quinn and his acclaimed 4-3 base and Cover 3 approach.

Dallas produced a bottom-five scoring defense last season, but made swift changes on that side of the ball and currently find themselves in the top half in that same category through three games of the new campaign. It’s fair to approach the situation with extreme caution, but there’s reason to believe Dallas’ defense could hold up their end of the bargain as the Cowboys look to make a serious playoff push in 2021.

I would feel less inclined to heap praise on this group following Monday's win over the Eagles if it wasn't their second impressive showing in as many weeks, the first of which came against Justin Herbert and the high-octane Los Angeles Chargers. It was a noteworthy performance against a Chargers offense that would go on to explode for 30 points against the Kansas City Chiefs the following week. 

Over their last two contests, the Cowboys have allowed just 19 points per game while forcing four turnovers, all of which came via interceptions. Dallas’ defense hasn’t just impressed in the secondary as of late. Taking a deeper dive into the numbers, the Cowboys have yet to allow a rushing attack to account for 100 yards in a single game this season and are currently giving up an average of a stingy 70.3 yards per game on the ground. In all fairness, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t need to run the ball in Week 1, as Tom Brady lit up the Cowboys’ secondary to the tune of 379 passing yards and four touchdowns. But this defense has been unrecognizable in the weeks that followed that opening contest, with the Chargers and Eagles both failing to find much success through the air or on the ground. 

The stars (pun intended) that have led this unit to a surprising turnaround have been a pair of young playmakers in the form of cornerback Trevon Diggs and linebacker-turned-pass-rusher Micah Parsons. Diggs has remarkably found the end zone in back-to-back games with a pick-six in each contest. Parsons, who took up DeMarcus Lawrence’s regular spot on the right side of their defensive line after Lawrence suffered a broken foot in practice, has recorded sacks in back-to-back games since making the move. Parsons recorded his first career NFL sack on Herbert in Week 2 and split a sack with fellow rookie Osa Odighizuwa on Monday night.

If you're not paying attention to this unit as of now, I bet you will be in a few weeks’ time. Dallas' defense should continue to thrive over their next few contests. They'll see the Christian McCaffrey-less Carolina Panthers in Week 4. In Week 5, they'll take on Daniel Jones and the New York Giants. The good times should keep rolling into Week 6 when they take a visit to Foxboro to compete against rookie quarterback Mac Jones and New England's anemic offense.

We had serious reservations regarding this Cowboys defense heading into the 2021 season, but they’ve been one of the more surprising storylines through three weeks.

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