Troy Aikman was a three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys. He was a six-time Pro Bowler. In 2006, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his efforts. As evidenced by all of his success, Aikman and his Cowboys teammates were never questioned for their effort.
The same, however, cannot be said of the current roster of players, and in particular, the Dallas Cowboys defense. And that’s precisely what the Fox Sports analyst did in a recent radio interview, and he didn’t pull any punches.
Dallas Cowboys defense surrendering most points per game
Just four games into the 2020 NFL season and the Dallas Cowboys defense has put up staggering numbers. And not in a good way. Over the first four games, the Cowboys defense has surrendered an NFL-worst average of 36.5 points per game.
A closer look reveals the Cowboys defense has given up 1,722 yards for the season (3rd worst) for an average of 430.5 yards per game. While the Dallas defensive unit is awful as a whole, the pass defense is the lesser of two evils.
Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 258 yards through the air, which is good enough for 23rd in the league. The defense against the run, however, is a sieve. Dallas’ opponents are averaging 172.5 yards per game on the ground, which is second-worst in the NFL behind their in-state rival, the Houston Texans. Things definitely are bigger in Texas.
Odell Beckham Jr. exposes porous Dallas defense
There’s no better illustration of the abysmal performance of the Dallas Cowboys rush defense, or lack thereof, than the team’s last game against the Cleveland Browns in Arlington. Browns star running back Nick Chubb played for just a quarter before he suffered a knee injury and left the game. He still managed to put up 43 yards on six carries, for 7.2 yards per carry.
When Chubb went down, you would expect a decline in the Browns run production. Against the Dallas Cowboys defense, just the opposite happened. The Browns finished the game with 307 yards on the ground. Cleveland had three players gain more than 70 yards.
One of those players was Cleveland wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Late in the game with the Cowboys trailing 41-38, the Browns had the ball on the 50-yard line. Beckham took the pitch from quarterback Baker Mayfield on a reverse and was forced all the way back to the Cleveland 36-yard line, 14 yards behind the original line of scrimmage.
Six Cowboys defenders were close enough at one point during the play to make the tackle on the speedy receiver. Not a single one did and Beckham scored, effectively sealing the game.
Troy Aikman calls out defense for lack of effort
On Troy Aikman’s weekly appearance on the radio station, 96.7 KTCK The Ticket, the former Cowboys quarterback pointed specifically to the Beckham play and called out the defense for its inexcusable play.
“I didn’t see one guy on defense that I’d say had a good game. The last touchdown that Odell Beckham Jr. scored when they cut it to 3 points—[Dallas] had all the momentum. If they make a stop there defensively, they probably win the game.”
The Dallas Cowboys defense, however, didn’t make the play, and Aikman knows why.
“I just didn’t think the effort was there. Over the years, you could always point to the way the Cowboys played defensively. They played with great effort and always flew around 11 guys. Didn’t always play great, but it was always there on film as far as the effort level.”
Aikman said while the lack of effort was disappointing for fans watching, it will have a long-lasting effect in the Cowboys’ locker room.
“To me, I’d be embarrassed as a player to put that kind of performance on film. That’s going to be seen by your peers for the rest of the season.”
Whether or not the Cowboys can rebound and put a respectable defense on the field the remainder of the season is anyone’s guess. Results are one thing. Effort is something altogether different. If head coach Mike McCarthy is unable to get the most effort out of his defense, it could be a long season for Cowboys fans and very problematic for his future in Big D.