The Dallas Cowboys’ defense played only 47 snaps against the Jacksonville Jaguars this past Sunday. Thanks to a surprising performance by the offense, Jaylon Smith and his teammates were able to pile the pressure on Blake Bortles and his Jaguars. They left him little room in the pocket and few open windows down the field.
Here’s a look at my defensive notes from the All-22 film:
-Sean Lee still out but David Irving makes his season debut. Leighton Vander Esch (LVE) and Jaylon Smith the starting linebackers.
-Chido Awuzie was technically active but didn’t play, had been dealing with an ankle injury. Anthony Brown started at left CB, Jourdan Lewis in the slot.
-DeMarcus Lawrence apparently dealing with a torn labrum the past couple of years, only played half the snaps, used mostly on pass downs. Rookie Dorance Armstrong got the start at left DE.
-Jaguars’ first drive was a three-and-out. Dallas played Cover-3 on both pass downs.
-Taco Charlton showed good vision when Jacksonville attempted an end around with TE Niles Paul. Taco didn’t crash inside and maintained backside containment.
Beautiful play by Taco Chartlon. Stays home and makes the tackle. pic.twitter.com/XhpxdbXcbq— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 16, 2018
-Next play on 3rd-and-7, David Irving used an excellent club move to beat RG AJ Cann and pressure Blake Bortles into a throwaway pass. Two straight three-and-outs for Jacksonville. Jaylon Smith blitzed on the play.
David Irving is a freak. pic.twitter.com/PqlvOj15PO— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 15, 2018
Discussing how the pre-snap alignment of Maliek Collins led to David Irving's successful pass rush here. Also talk about the well-timed cross chop and Irving's footwork while wrapping around the block. #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/q3l1lxoRX6— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 15, 2018
-Bortles 12 yards to open their third drive was a read-option run. The Cowboys used the scrape-exchange technique to defend the play but the Jags’ FB, Bohanon, arc released on his sift motion and blocked the scraping Xavier Woods. LT Walker sealed off LVE after double-teaming Tyrone Crawford.
-Keelan Cole 17 yards on 3rd-and-3 was a shallow cross rub concept that’s a common part of Jacksonville’s scheme. Cowboys blitzed Jaylon with man coverage behind it. Anthony Brown was picked by Dede Westbrook’s release.
Not a big fan of using a blitz that takes this long to hit on 3rd-and-3. pic.twitter.com/TPBxRZDNBd— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 16, 2018
-Maliek Collins sack on 3rd-and-3 to start the second quarter, used a nice inside spin move on LG Norwell with Man-Free robber coverage behind him. The loss of eight forced the Jaguars out of FG range.
-Next offensive play, Bortles was sacked again, this time by Crawford and Antwaun Woods. Bortles was looking to take a deep shot on a 3-verticals concept. Dallas was in Cover-3 and LVE was quick to see the deep over route and run beneath it.
-After Bortles’s 12-yard gain on the read-option, Dallas adjusted how they defended the play. They had the unblocked DE slow up to force a give read, then would rally to the RB.
-Jacksonville only ran 16 offensive plays by the time they got the ball on their last drive of the half with 41 seconds remaining. They were down 24-0 by then.
-Dallas had some notable snaps of three DL to one side on passing downs. This allowed for one-on-one matchups for the pass rushers.
-Per usual, Cover-3 was the defense’s base coverage.
-Randy Gregory showed up in the passing game. Won the below one-on-one matchup on 3rd down. LVE was also stellar when covering tight ends.
This play is great because two things.— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 16, 2018
1. Leighton Vander Esh's tight coverage on the JAX TE.
2. Randy Gregory's using a nice long arm push/pull to beat the JAX LT and hit Bortles. #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/eura2RyhhY
-Yeldon 20 yards to open the second drive of the third quarter was an outlet pass on play-action. Cowboys were in Cover-3 with the linebackers focused on gaining depth in their drops after the play-fake.
-Jaylon Smith was active as a blitzer, has been the whole year. Not that Dallas sends extra pressure more than most, but they’re a steady feature on 2nd and 3rd downs.
-Bortles hasn’t connected on any deep throws through two and a half quarters. That’s a credit to the entire unit, including the back seven, like Byron Jones and Anthony Brown.
-Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard mixed in some Tampa-2 or Cover-2 on select pass downs. Cole’s 15-yard catch came late in the down as Bortles scrambled to his left. Jaylon was a tick late in disrupting the pass.
-Two plays later, Westbrook’s 34-yard touchdown came on a deep over route from the left slot vs Cover-3. They’d run that concept multiple times throughout the game, but it was always covered well. This time, the quick play-fake drew LVE in a step, making it harder for him to track Westbrook.
Dede Westbrook with a touchdown and a dance to celebrate 🕺🕺🕺https://t.co/265P4jt2Zz— FanDuel (@FanDuel) October 14, 2018
-Jeff Heath interception late third quarter came on the very next offensive play. Jaguars ran the exact same concept as before but to the other side of the field. This time, LVE wasn’t influenced by the play-fake and Byron Jones passed off his receiver to Heath to help defend the play. Jones should’ve picked it himself, but Heath was there to gather the tipped ball.
Fantastic job by Byron Jones here. DAL is in cover 3 and Jones does a good job of passing off the vertical route to the deep safety and taking the deep corner coming into his zone. Should have been a pick for Jones, but Jeff Heath is able to clean up after the deflection. pic.twitter.com/TI8VogqoBR— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 16, 2018
-The next play after that, Jaylon stripped Cole of the ball after he caught a short pass on his pivot route. Jourdan Lewis made the recovery. Zeke would score a touchdown two plays later to put them up 37-7 with 10 points off turnovers.
Here is Jaylon Smith's forced fumble. pic.twitter.com/eOmbyZ1bvP— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 15, 2018
-LVE had another strong performance, good mental processing and sure tackling.
-Another example of Dallas’s CBs playing well came on 3rd-and-4 early fourth quarter. Byron Jones showed excellent positioning, change of direction, and ball skills to defend Donte Moncreif’s vertical route along the sideline.
Byron Jones = 🔒 pic.twitter.com/JT60QqXO1B— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 16, 2018
-The following snap on 4th-and-4, he stayed in phase with Moncrief on a shallow cross and forced an incomplete pass.
The Dallas Cowboys dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars on both sides of the ball, something no one thought possible. Every level of the defense contributed, from sacks and pressures by the defensive line to covering over routes and forcing a fumble by the linebackers, to locking down outside receivers and intercepting a pass by the secondary.
The defense has shown they can not only survive, but that they can thrive without Sean Lee. However, they have yet to reach their ceiling. Shutting down a shaky Jaguars offense is expected from a unit as good as this one. But Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard’s charges can be an elite force in the years to come. All they need to do is prove it with consistency.
You can follow Allan on Twitter at @AllanUy22