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Defensive Review: In case you forgot, DeMarcus Lawrence is still terrific

Defensive Review: In case you forgot, DeMarcus Lawrence is still terrific

The Cowboys’ defensive front owned the day in dominant fashion, led by DeMarcus Lawrence. As much as the defense as stepped up, what exactly is the ceiling of the Dallas defense?

The Dallas pass rush was absolutely dominant and we will get into just how dominant it was later in the article. Overall, the Giants offense generated 336 yards and converted just three of their 11 third downs. The defense sacked Daniel Jones five times and we also got Trevon Diggs‘ first interception of the season to seal the game.

Run Defense

It wasn’t perfect as the Dallas run defense struggled at times, especially when Jones used his legs to scramble. The Giants ran for 167 yards on 6.7 yards per attempt. Saquon Barkley got loose a couple times (as he tends to do) and Jones ran for 79 yards. Overall, the Dallas defense forced several drives to stall out and got off the field on third down.

Only three of them happened on run plays, but there were far too many missed tackles and it caused problems at times (including Barkley’s 36-yard touchdown run). Per Pro Football Focus, Dallas missed 11 tackles on Monday (for reference, they missed four tackles vs. TB and three tackles vs. CIN). Donovan Wilson, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Anthony Barr were all guilty of missed tackles on run plays per PFF.

One thing that should help with this is the imminent return of Jayron Kearse. Israel Mukuamu has been fine in Kearse’s place, but Kearse is a leader on the defense and his return will aid the second level of the Dallas defense. That second level could use some help as Anthony Barr has struggled and we got our first substandard Leighton Vander Esch performance in a while.

Micah Parsons was Dallas’ highest graded run defender with a grade of 79.7. Osa Odighizuwa continued his strong start to the season with a run defense grade of 68.4.

The run defense as a whole was fine but definitely left something to be desired. Through three weeks, as good as this defense has played, the run defense can be vulnerable at times.

Pass Defense

Let’s start with the pass rush and then break down the coverage. Goodness gracious. Thirty-five (!!!) pressures from the Dallas defense. I cannot say I’ve seen a game recently with that much pressure on a quarterback. Here’s the breakdown of your pressure leaders for Week 3:

The pass rush was fierce and was led by DeMarcus Lawrence. He demoralized the Giants’ rookie RT Evan Neal all night long. Lawrence had yet to record a pressure before Monday, and it seemed he reestablished himself against New York. Lawrence was nothing short of dominant and it was without a doubt one of the finest performances of his career.

On the back end, Malik Hooker continued his strong performance to start the season. Hooker was the highest graded Cowboy in coverage and he has yet to surrender a reception in coverage.

Anthony Brown was strong as well, as he was targeted 11 times and Daniel Jones completed just six of those targets. Brown had a pass breakup as he only gave up six catches for 48 yards.

Trevon Diggs gave up just three catches on six targets for 52. Diggs also had a PBU and the game-sealing interception. Diggs allowed a passer rating of 40.3 when targeted.

Jourdan Lewis had a tough night as he was the lowest graded player in coverage. Jones completed all seven of his targets on Lewis for 68 yards and a passer rating of 107.1.

The other notable item in the secondary was the tough night for Donovan Wilson. He was charged with three missed tackles in coverage and one missed tackle in run support. Wilson was generally fine in coverage, but those missed tackles were costly. Wilson also received a controversial unsportsmanlike flag that extended a drive for New York.

Overall it was a fine night for the secondary that was certainly made easier by the dominance up front from the pass rush.

The Parsons Project

As stated in Week 1, I’m going to be detailing how Micah Parsons is deployed by Dan Quinn. Here is Parsons’ snap breakdown by position:

  • Defensive line: 40
    • LOLB: 25
    • ROLB: 15
  • Off-ball linebacker: 20

One has to wonder how much Parsons’ illness he dealt with all week affected his play as he received his lowest PFF grade of the season. Even then, he still racked up six pressures with a couple of highlight reel moments as he wrecked Jones’ protection.

Parsons received a 73.9 overall grade, 79.7 grade in run defense, 26.2 grade in tackling (he was charged with a missed tackle), 69.5 pass rush grade, and a 49.2 coverage grade (though he did not allow a reception in 10 coverage snaps).

Parsons was back to a part time linebacker after being a full time edge against Cincinnati. I imagine his positional snaps each week depend on the matchup. Against more mobile quarterbacks, perhaps he is used at linebacker more often. Here are his snap counts for the season:

vs. TB vs. CIN @ NYG
DL 40 55 40
Edge 21 3 20
CB 1 0

It was another strong showing for the defense. This pass rush looks to be borderline dominant, and it should continue that this week with Washington (who just allowed 30 pressures to the Eagles’ defensive front) coming to town.

Staff Writer covering the Dallas Cowboys || Co-Host of The Silver and Blue Podcast || Co-Host of The Victory Avenue Podcast

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