Cowboys: Defense showing playoff caliber form
That the Dallas Cowboys are NFC East champions is, in part, thanks to an improved defense. While the improvement of this group as a whole is neither dramatic nor complete, several players have stepped up and made a real difference this season, which bodes well for the sterner tests ahead.
Three “new” additions to the 2014 defense have graded strongly as pass rushers on the defensive line, Tyrone Crawford (+16.0), Henry Melton (+16.0) and Jeremy Mincey (+11.0). While Melton and Mincey were free agent signings, Crawford returned to the Cowboys lineup having missed the entire 2013 season through injury. Between them they have combined for 15 sacks and 116 total pressures. Melton’s 8.3 Pass Rushing Productivity is eighth-best among defensive tackles
Rolando McClain has amassed 37 stops in run defense, giving him a 15.2 Run Stop Percentage second-best among inside linebackers. His +13.9 overall grade is seventh-best at the position, and makes him a terrific off-season addition.
Cornerbacks Orlando Scandrick and Sterling Moore have yet to allow a single touchdown this season when in primary coverage. Only two other cornerbacks – Chris Harris Jr. and Vontae Davis – have played at least 400 coverage snaps without giving up a touchdown. Scandrick’s +8.9 coverage grade is eighth-best among corners, and the best of his career.