The 2021 preseason has ended and the Dallas Cowboys have not won a single game. Going 0-4 in games that don’t matter isn’t the worst thing in the world. Hell, it could actually be a good sign. In 2014 and 2018, the Cowboys lost all of their preseason games and made it to the postseason both times. So not all is lost. But I’m still not convinced by some of the hype and expectation creeps around this defense.
As in most years, much of the defense’s success will depend on how long the offense can hold the ball per game. The Cowboys’ defensive backfield will be young this season, which can be disastrous at times. I know they added pieces. Starting linebackers Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox are expected to make significant contributions to the defense of new coordinator Dan Quinn. Second round pick Kelvin Joseph is another new piece the boys are expecting big things from, but the cornerback has already been sidelined with a groin injury.
Now I know that Quinn is a… reputation built on the “Legion of Boom” ages ago, but it’s going to be a different story in Dallas. As the head coach of the Falcons, Quinn’s defense seemed to get worse every year. In 2019, Atlanta was the 13th worst in yards allowed per game. Last season they feel in fourth place.
And that Falcons secondary was far from great in Quinn’s last years there, and the team’s overall defensive performance was ultimately Quinn’s downfall. Quinn was brought to Atlanta for his defensive plan, but towards the end of his tenure, he produced one of the worst defenses ever seen. the falcons defense was so terrible last year that Quinn received his walking papers before the season ended. So, of course, Jerry Jones rushed out to clean him up.
While Cowboys’ defenses improved in the second half of last season, still weren’t much better than Quinn’s Falcons. To run a scheme efficiently, you need the right staff. In Seattle, Quinn had tall, long, physical defensive backs that could challenge wide receivers on the leash and had a strong presence on safety deep down the field in cover. There’s potential in the Cowboys’ secondary, but it’s up to Quinn to put it in and put these players in positions to succeed.
One of the biggest things for Quinn in his first year as Cowboys DC will be whether his defense line can generate enough pass rush to keep their cornerbacks and safes out of trouble. DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are the guys the Cowboys look to on the outside to go after the quarterback. Lawrence and Gregory hit a total of 10 sacks last season. Last year, the Gregory missed the first six games due to a suspension for violating the NFL’s drug abuse policy. So the Cowboys hope he can get back on track in more ways than one.
The LB Corps is arguably the most consistent group going into the regular season. Starring Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith (unless it’s shared) returning from last season, plus the drafting of Parsons and Cox, this could be one of the best LB groups in the NFL.
However you look at it, this Cowboys team will still rely heavily on its assault weapons. Opposing teams also barely play their starters. So while the defense may not be as bad as last season, I have yet to see him in the regular season before I can say they will be much improved. Let’s not put a ton of stock in preseason performance to predict the regular season.
That can of course be said of any team. But not every team has this defense, and this one backup QB’s on his roster. Therefore, Dak Prescott’s health is paramount to the overall success of the team. And if I’m wrong about the defense after the first month of the season, I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong. My only fear is that I will be right about this.