If you’ve watched sports for any amount of time, you’ve undoubtedly heard the following cliche: defense wins championships. The Dallas Cowboys, however, apparently missed that memo. Even if you believe that a great offense can compensate for other weaknesses, Jerry Jones’ defense is even struggling to play mediocre football.
After another troubling performance—the Cleveland Browns posted 49 points on Sunday—DeMarcus Lawrence offered a troubling diagnosis. Based on his comments, the Dallas Cowboys defense could have an even bigger problem than anyone thought.
The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2020 NFL season with high expectations
In 2019, the Dallas Cowboys were expected to cruise to the top of a weak NFC East and stroll into the playoffs; that, of course, didn’t happen. 2020, however, was supposed to be the year to set things right.
After an extended song and dance, Jerry Jones finally moved on from Jason Garrett and brought in Mike McCarthy; he then made sure his new head coach had plenty of toys to play with by inking Amari Cooper to a new contract, drafting CeeDee Lamb, and, for better or worse, franchise-tagging Dak Prescott.
For the most part, those efforts have paid off. Through the first four games of the season, Prescott has piled up 1,690 passing yards while throwing for nine touchdowns. The Cowboys offense currently the league in both passing yards and total offensive yardage per game; they’re also second-overall in total points and third in points per game.
There’s still one problem, though. Despite those gaudy numbers, the Dallas Cowboys are 1-3.
The Dallas Cowboys are on pace to have a historically bad defense
For all of the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive strength, the team has struggled through the first quarter of the 2020 NFL season. The squad is simply being hamstrung by an awful defense.
During the offseason, the Cowboys brought in Mike Nolan to replace Rod Marinelli as the defensive coordinator. In theory, the move would make Dallas less predictable; Nolan’s scheme is supposed to keep offenses guessing with a variety of looks. In reality, however, there’s been a breakdown somewhere between the coordinator and his players.
Through the first four games of the season, the Cowboys have surrendered 1,722 yards, which is the second-worst total in the league; they’re also giving up an eye-popping 36.5 points per game. While the Dallas offense is trying its best, that’s simply too much ground to make up on a weekly basis.
DeMarcus Lawrence troublingly thinks the defense is ‘soft’
After the Dallas Cowboys defense surrendered 49 points to the Cleveland Browns, DeMarcus Lawrence shared his perspective on the unit’s issues. While he declined to comment on the defensive scheme—”It’s not my job to think about what is right or what is wrong,” he said, according to Mike Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News—he did make an even more troubling statement.
In my own words, I’d call [the defense] soft,” Lawrence said. “We’ve got to hold ourselves to a higher standard. …I call this s— soft.”
That answer isn’t what anyone associated with the Dallas Cowboys wanted to hear. It’s one thing for a unit to struggle from a lack of talent or schematic issues; it’s an entirely different situation when the problems stem from energy and effort. While no one outside of the defensive meeting room knows exactly what’s going on, the club must get to the bottom of it. If an internal cultural issue, coupled with bad results, is allowed to fester, things could get even uglier.
For coaches and fans alike, effort is a non-negotiable requirement. Getting tough on defense won’t solve all of the Cowboys’ defensive overnight, but it will a good first step toward stopping the bleeding.
Team stats courtesy of ESPN