They’re talking defense in Dallas and that alone is news.
More known for its star-studded offense, the Dallas Cowboys are resurrecting a throwback style of play on defense.
The Cowboys are 11th in total defense, including 13th against the run. They have 11 sacks and three takeaways in three games and might have developed a difference-maker in end DeMarcus Lawrence.
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Here are five storylines to watch:
DeMarcus Lawrence has become the surprise storyline this season. Lawrence had only one sack a season ago while playing through back injuries and dealing with an early-season suspension. Now, he finds himself leading the NFL with 6.5 sacks. The 6.5 sacks are the most by any Cowboys defender through the first three games of an NFL season in team history.
The Cowboys have been plagued with injuries to their secondary early on, and could be without Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) again this week. Jourdan Lewis (hamstring) and Nolan Carroll (concussion) are expected to play. That’s important considering the Rams’ passing attack has improved in Jared Goff’s second season and with the addition of wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
Goff is having a solid sophomore season to date. He went 0-7 in his starts as a rookie last season, but has shown why he was the top overall pick in the 2016 draft. His play will be compared with that of Dak Prescott, a fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft who had arguably the best rookie season by a quarterback in NFL history. Goff and Prescott will forever be linked by being in the same draft class, and this is the first regular-season matchup between the two.
Running back watch too
The running backs are worth watching, too. The Rams’ Todd Gurley was the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft, and helped re-establish the value of the running back position with a solid rookie season. That might have made the Cowboys more comfortable in using a top-5 pick on Ezekiel Elliott in 2016. Gurley is off to a better start, statistically, than Elliott, but both will be featured significantly in this game.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli expresses the importance of takeaways on a weekly basis. So far, the Cowboys only have three (including zero last week). That number must improve as the season goes on, and this week might be the time to get it going. The Rams have been turnover-prone this season, giving the ball away five times so far.