This Saturday, the Raiders line up against the Dallas Cowboys. Lost in all of the hype over the fantastic offense, the defense managed to surprise. In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys’ defense played well in spots. Yet, without a dominant player at each level, room for improvement exists. In facing the Raiders, Dallas will throw the kitchen sink at Oakland. Cover 32 Cowboys Managing Editor Tony Iosso sat down to discuss the state of the Cowboys defense. Also, what the Raiders could face.
How did Dallas address their pass rush in the off-season, and how will we see it Saturday?
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– Dallas invested their first round pick in this past draft to help bolster their pass rush by selecting Taco Charlton out of Michigan. Many Cowboys fans were hopeful for T.J. Watt or Charles Harris, and have been highly critical of Charlton’s performance thus far. However, the rookie is progressing nicely under Coach Rod Marinelli and seems to take another step forward each week. I thought the team would be more active addressing the defensive line during free agency, with Damontre Moore and Stephen Paea being their top acquisitions. Both are nice pieces, but neither is the “war daddy” Jerry Jones has been looking for.
In terms of Sunday, expect to see a constant rotation of bodies as per Marinelli’s style. Notable players who will most likely sit this one out are Tyrone Crawford, Cedric Thornton and Charles Tapper.
Sean Lee is the heart of the defense. What can you describe as the strengths and weaknesses of the other two LB?
– Sean Lee is certainly the heart of the defense, but could soon turn that title over to Jaylon Smith. As of right now Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson will join Lee to round out the first team linebacking core. Moving Lee out of the middle seems to have helped out with some of his injury issues. By doing this Hitchens took over in the middle, and is an above average run defender.
Dropping into coverage deep down the middle of the field or manning up with a running are not what you want to ask him to do. Wilson is entering his third year out of Minnesota and has really flashed so far this year in camp and preseason games. Similar to Hitchens, Wilson will lay the wood in run support, but is not as strong on passing downs. The real wildcard here is Jaylon Smith. Most have pegged him as a middle linebacker which would kick Hitchens to the strong side. Needless to say this position group is still in flux and will ultimately be decided based off of Smith’s continued progress.
The secondary is a source of criticism, who will step forward to help?
– The Cowboys decided to move on from 3/4 of their starting secondary this offseason. They added Nolan Carroll in free agency, but really overhauled the group through the draft. Rookies Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods will play prominent roles in 2017. However the real leaders of the secondary this year will be Byron Jones and Orlando Scandrick. Jones has really impressed his teammates and coaches so far in camp with his playmaking ability. Scandrick appears back in form now entering his second season post ACL reconstruction.