The Cowboys’ draft had a clear message, and that message was defense. They started out with a DE and two CBs on days 1 and 2 and kept it rolling with Safety Xavier Woods at #191, CB Marquez White at #216, and DT Joey Ivie at #228.
The only offensive players they grabbed were Ryan Switzer, a slot receiver from UNC at #133, and the fairly raw Noah Brown, a WR out of Ohio State, grabbed a #239.
This is good news and it’s also pretty much what happens when your last two big playoff losses were to Aaron Rodgers because no person on your team seemed capable of stopping him.
The Cowboys didn’t have the worst defense last year, but there are three big caveats to that. First, while they were pretty great against the runs – tops in the league, allowing just 83.5 yards a game – they were woeful through the air, 26th in the league.
Second, the defense arguably had to work less than any other in the league. Not only were the Cowboys fifth in the league in total yards per game (376.7) on offense, between Dak Prescott’s care with the ball and Ezekiel Elliott’s ability to move the sticks, they put together a lot of long drives and rarely put their defense in a position to be overly tested.
Third, they played six games against a pretty mediocre NFC East last year, and it was also in general a pretty down year for the conference. The Cowboys won two more games than anyone else in the NFC – that won’t happen next year. They also managed a point differential of +115 in a conference where only one other team, the Atlanta Falcon (+134), broke 63. So it’s not all pats on the back, just at the moment.
Still, this draft showed something else which is what you can do when you miraculous seem to have ended up with a terrific rookie QB and RB in the same year. They could use some more WRs, and obviously spent a little time on that, but it’s not a need and nothing on the offensive side of the ball really was. So they went all in on giving defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli everything he could ask for.
The NFL draft is pretty hard to predict, overall, but you have to be excited about how much of an improvement it’s possible the Boys could see on defense in ’17. Who knows what will happen with DeMarcus Lawrence, but they’ve got Taco Charlton on the other side of the line, and a couple of young CBs in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis who might help solve a problem the Boys have had since basically Terence Newman was around.
And, they might even get to see Jaylon Smith, a 2nd round linebacker last year who would have been a 1st rounder for sure before his injury. For all the optimism, I’m still waiting to read those magic words “nerves regenerating,” but the thought of him lining up across from Sean Lee is a big deal.
So, all in all, it’s an exciting haul, and I’m looking forward to seeing them on the field!
How do you feel about the Cowboys' defense after the NFL Draft? Share your thoughts with Andy on Twitter @andytobo.