The defense of the Dallas Cowboys has been pretty decent in the previous season, but in 2018, we expect to see their defensive unit even better. Many young talents joined the team in the last few years, and the improvements should be visible this time around. Some of the names that were added are Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods and Chidobe Awuzie, as well as Taco Charlton. While Awuzie struggled with injuries and Charlton was invisible on the field, the future is bright for the Cowboys.
In the NFL, defensive lines and secondaries work together. If the pass rush is working, the quarterback will be forced to throw early and out of difficult positions which gives the secondary a chance to benefit. Vice versa, if the secondary can stick with the receivers longer than usual, the defensive line will have more time to attack the quarterback and force him to make a mistake.
Randy Gregory is still questionable for the upcoming season, but even without him, the pass rush shouldn’t be a problem for America’s Team. Last year, DeMarcus Lawrence showed that he could be dangerous and there is no reason why he wouldn’t put up big numbers once again. Also, David Irving is a key element in the defensive line, but he was sidetracked by a four-game suspension. Furthermore, Taco Charlton is expected to improve, and we should watch him becoming one of the key players in the Cowboys’ defense.
The Cowboys defensive unit was led by Sean Lee, but the linebacker group is strengthened by Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas selected in this year’s draft. Hopefully, Lee is going to stay healthy in the upcoming season, but another player worth mentioning is Jaylon Smith. He had a so-so year, but he exploded at the end of the season which gives us hope that he will return to his Notre Dame days both in terms of performance and health.
With the quality pass rush and a strong linebacker line, the secondary should not have a lot of troubles closing down the passing game and forcing turnovers. Speaking of the secondary, let’s start with Xavier Woods. He could develop into one of the defensive leaders. Byron Jones will move to cornerback and Woods will become the last line of the Dallas Cowboys defense. His tracking abilities and recognition skills qualify him for the position, and now that he is more experienced, Woods should have no problems adjusting to the new role.
We are also looking forward to watching cornerbacks Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie who are expected to have a breakout season. Lewis showed his potential in his rookie season, and despite the coverage issues, which are normal for first-year players in the NFL, he had more bright spots than not. Due to injuries of other guys, Lewis had to play more snaps than it was planned, but the experience is welcomed now.
Meanwhile, Awuzie struggled with injuries in the first season as a Cowboy, but he was everything Dallas expected him to be when they selected him in the second round of the 2017 draft. He started in the final five games of the season and finished the year with 27 tackles, seven pass deflections, one interception and one sack. It is just a matter of time when Awuzie will become more comfortable on the field, and all indications show that it will happen in 2018.
To complement the young guys, we will watch veterans Byron Jones, Anthony Brown and Jeff Heath. Jones should be at the position of cornerback, which will allow him to display his strengths. Meanwhile, Brown disappointed last year, even though he had a magnificent rookie season, so the Cowboys need to be careful with this player. He will need to regain confidence, which is why Dallas should put him at the position which suits him most. Last but not least, Jeff Heath will be of importance in the new season. He can be a safety and make a difference on special teams, and he showed his talents last year as America’s Team struggled for a playoff berth.
The Dallas Cowboys obviously have a talented defense. We didn’t expect too much from it last year, but now, everyone is a year older and more experienced, and the secondary is expected to have a breakout year.