The Dallas Cowboys defense is off to a great start statistically, ranking No. 1 in the NFL . While at this point in the season, that ranking is nothing but window dressing, it’s a great sign the unit may have turned the corner under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
The way the offense is sputtering, the Cowboy defense may need to retain that lofty ranking all season if the team is to have any shot at the postseason.
Until the Cowboy offensive line improves, Tony Romo will continue to have to run for his life. Until that line can create more running lanes, DeMarco Murray and the Cowboy run game will remain stagnant. Until Jason Witten can emerge from the funk that has resulted in him leading the league in drops, the Cowboy passing game will continue to suffer.
In the meantime, it will be up to the defense to hold down opposing offenses and keep the Cowboys in games.
Through three games, Dallas is holding opponents to an average of exactly 250 yards per contest – 5.7 yards per game ahead of the No. 2 defense, the Houston Texans. Safety Gerald Sensabaugh went so far to say earlier this week that this season’s unit is the best he’s ever been a part of.
As in the past few seasons, talent abounds on that side of the ball. The difference is that this season, for the most part, talent has equaled performance.
The offseason acquisitions of cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have so far proven to be great choices as the tandem has combined to solidify a secondary that was the defense’s weak link in 2011. Carr can even fill in at safety in a pinch, which he had to do last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers even though he hadn’t played the position in a game since he was a junior in high school. The safety position has been crippled, however, and took yet another devastating hit in Week 3 when Barry Church tore his Achilles and is, of course, out for the season.
Sean Lee continues to be a revelation at middle linebacker. He’s not only stout against the run and can cover receivers crossing through the middle, but he’s been a ball-hawking playmaker as well. DeMarcus Ware remains an All-Pro caliber player. Anthony Spencer, the other outside linebacker, is working hard to silence critics who say the Cowboys should not sign him to a long-term contract and that they should let him walk as a free agent after the season.
Up front, while Dallas still misses Jay Ratliff, who is still suffering from a sprained ankle, Josh Brent has performed admirably in his stead at the nose.
Nobody really cares what type of ranking a defense has three weeks into a season. But if the Dallas defense can keep playing the way it has, it can help keep the team in playoff contention until the offense starts firing on all cylinders.