The Dallas Cowboys have a defense that is garnering attention each and every week, but this past week, they shut down the Jaguars en route to a 40-7 victory. By far their best performance of the season, the defense showed up in the biggest way possible on national television. But the question arises, has this defense reached elite status? Cowboys Nation, you better believe it.
They are currently the #1 defense in points and yards allowed the in the NFC, over teams like the Rams, Vikings, and the division rival Eagles. They allow just 17.2 points per game, and sit in the top 10 in yards given up so far in the NFL. The Cowboys have already tallied up 18 sacks in just 6 games, tied 5th most in the NFL, averaging 3 sacks per game. Demarcus Lawrence is the leader among the defense with 5.5 sacks, but second on the team isn’t who you would think. Jaylon Smith (yes, that Jaylon Smith), is second with 3 sacks, which is more than anyone else on this defensive line that has great talent constantly rushing the passer.
The ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks hasn’t rewarded the defense in interceptions until recently, combining for 2 against the Texans and Jags over the past 2 games. But the most intriguing player over the first portion of the season is Byron Jones. The man has been as shutdown as can be for the Cowboys since his move back to cornerback, having 7 passes defended, but limiting the big time plays. We don’t say Jones’ name very much, which is a great thing when playing defense. The less we talk about you, the less big plays you give up. Simple enough, but he has yet to give up a touchdown this year to the likes of wide receivers like Odell Beckham, Devin Funchess, and Golden Tate, cementing his spot as the Cowboys number 1 corner.
Sean Lee has been the leader for years, whether it be on the field, or from the sideline recovering from his never ending hamstring injuries. But fear not Cowboy Nation, because we have seen the torch in motion, slowing making its way to the team’s young linebackers’ grasp.
Leighton Vander Esch (LVE) and Jaylon Smith have been exceptional for this defense this season. #1 and #2 in combined tackles for the team, they’re showing out, totaling over 100 tackles through 6 games…. 100 COMBINED TACKLES. Think about that, because these men have to be FLYING around the field to be around the ball at all times. Before the season, in our Texas Power Hour podcast, I’ve been predicting Jaylon to have over 100 tackles himself, setting a new career high for him. Vander Esch, however, has surpassed even the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff’s expectations so far, leading the team in with 51 tackles, with 40 being solo. Although he only played 8 man football before he reached college, the style of play helped LVE learn to make plays in open space, therefore contributing his excellent ability to open field tackle strong running backs like Saquon Barkley.
These two stud linebackers, yes Jaylon Smith is a stud, will be the leaders for the next decade as I believe the Cowboys will re-sign him once his rookie contract expires after next year. This defense has been top tier so far this season, easily becoming the strength of America’s Team. Facing a road game in Washington, the Redskins will be a formidable test with Alex Smith at the helm. Can the offense keep up after their dominating performance? Or will the defense have to continue to carry them as they have been?
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