Dallas Cowboys are playing well, but need pass rush consistency
The Dallas Cowboys are doing a lot of things right which is why they sit atop the NFC East, but if they truly want a Super Bowl in 2016 they'll need to hit QBs more often.
Looking closely at the 5-1 Dallas Cowboys, it's amazing to see a team so predicted to fail in 2016 stepping up to the magnitude that they are; and in all facets.
They're a juggernaut of an offense and their defense, projected to be one of the worst ever, is top ten in several categories heading into the bye week. The 'Boys are back to taking away the ball at a high rate and are ranked seventh in the NFL in points allowed (17.8). But while they're excelling in most areas, there is still room for improvement.
Namely in the area of rushing the opposing passer.
Dallas is ranked in the bottom half of the NFL (19th) with only 11 sacks through six games, and could certainly stand to increase that number precipitously. For contrast (and a stark contrast it is), the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos have 21 sacks to this point in the season.
Now while no one will ever confuse the two defensive lines in a 'First 48' lineup, the comparison is needed to show how far the Cowboys have to go in the area.
It's not a total loss however, because what the Cowboys are doing is hitting the quarterback when it matters most and getting penetration to shut down run plays in the backfield. The latter being a consistent affair, as Dallas actually has more tackles for a loss than Denver landing at 24 and 21, respectively.
Where things really begin to veer off the road though is when assessing quarterback hits. This is a key indicator as to how often a team actually gets in the face of the opposing QB, which inevitably leads to sacks themselves. Larger sample size gives greater opportunity for intended results, if you will.
The Cowboys have hit the opposing QB a total of only 24 times. Contrarily the Broncos have done it a whopping 57 times, increasing their sample size and giving themselves a higher probability of getting sacks.
The good news is Cowboys are on the right path and things are already ratcheting up with the return of defensive end Demarcus Lawrence from suspension. In Week 6, David Irving went full Godzilla and it's play like that which could see him ultimately being the elite edge rusher opposite Lawrence.
Combine both factors with improved play on the defensive line interior from players like Terrell McClain and Cedric Thornton, and it won't be long before deep-threat opposing QBs have to become West Coast offense-ish to avoid being battered and bruised.
Dallas refuses to tie up a ton of money on their D-line with overpriced free agents, as that could either yield you a Broncos front...or the vastly underwhelming New York Giants. They've instead opted to focus on youth with and value thrown in waves at opponents, and it hasn't consistently gotten them results but by all accounts it's beginning to gel.
And for pennies on the dollar, no less.
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