The Dallas Cowboys struggled defensively in 2020. At times, they were the worst defense in franchise history under now-former defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
But this unit was able to bounce back in their final four games, winning three of them, and allowing an average of only 20.0 points per contest to opposing offenses during that span.
Despite the improved play, which also included averaging three takeaways per game, the Cowboys defense still finished the season ranked as one of the worst units in the NFL. Dallas would end up allowing an average of 29.6 points per game (28th) and 386.4 total yards a contest (23rd).
And while their passing defense would surge near the top ten in the NFL by year’s end, allowing only 227.6 yards per game through the air (ranking them 11th), the Cowboys had the second worst rushing defense in the league. They allowed a whopping 158.8 yards on the ground to their opponents in 2020.
Against the run, the Cowboys allowed four teams to rush for over 200-yards against them. Those teams included the Arizona Cardinals in Week Six (261), the Washington Football Team in Week Seven (208), and the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13 (294).
But the team that rushed for the most yards against the Cowboys on the ground were the Cleveland Browns. They posted an incredible 307 rushing yards against Dallas in AT&T Stadium in Week Four. And all four of these games resulted in losses for the 6-10 Cowboys.
It can be argued that the inability to stop the run lies squarely on the shoulders of the players along the front seven of the defense. And its this unit that Jesse Holley addressed during a recent episode of Hanging with the Boys on the team’s official website.
“I talked to someone this past weekend who was inside the locker room. This football team was too small defensively. It was too small defensively upfront. It was too small in the middle. And so that’s why it got pushed around … you’ve got to get some legit players in here.”
The Cowboys likely recognized this fact last offseason. That’s why we saw the front office uncharacteristically spend significant money on two former Pro Bowl free agents to bulk up the interior of their defensive line.
Unfortunately, that plan failed after defensive tackle Gerald McCoy suffered a season-ending quad injury before the start of the season. And veteran defensive tackle Dontari Poe would play only seven games before his poor performance got him released by the team at the midseason point.
Facing an expected drop in the salary cap this year due to the impact of the pandemic, the Dallas Cowboys being able to find the monies to address this issue and give new defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, the resources he needs will be difficult. If this team is looking to infuse talent into this front seven, it will likely have to do so via the draft.