Preseason week one. Our first opportunity to watch the Dallas Cowboys in a real, live football game since January. For many of us, our main focus was on the defense and what they were going to bring to the table. Even in a losing effort, there were a ton of encouraging signs from the young group.
The defensive line picked up right where they left off getting consistent pressure on the quarterback and really attacked the line of scrimmage. In his limited snaps, edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence was all over the backfield. A few of the guys we mentioned to keep and eye on, defensive ends Dorance Armstrong and Taco Charlton did nice jobs setting the edge and making it difficult for the quarterback to see over the line. Particularly, Armstrong displayed his techniques to keep the runners on the inside of the trenches. Taco continued to show off his crafty arsenal of moves as well.
Where we knew the defensive line and the linebacking core were among the strengths of the defense a year ago, the secondary also showed progress from the offseason.
The young corners who are projected to be the two main guys on the outside, Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones looked very sharp. Awuzie, entering his sophomore campaign, and Jones, his fourth, their press coverage was lock down as they had several pass breakups in their first live action of the year. In Jones’ case with 2018 set to be his first full season at corner, this was great to see. Anthony Brown had a game to forget as he was beaten pretty cleanly across the middle a couple of times. Expect to see Jourdan Lewis get his reps in at Brown’s position this week against the Bengals.
Maybe above all though, Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier’s play at safety is what caught my eye the most. Both were above average against the run and Woods had just about everyone in front of him all game. Frazier even looked good in coverage, which I did not expect to see from him.
What could be the best part about all of this though is that all of it was done without Sean Lee, Randy Gregory, David Irving and Maliek Collins even seeing playing time. It’s safe to say many of the questions on the Dallas defense have found answers heading into the 2018 season.