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Are the Dallas Cowboys a Top-3 Defense Heading Into 2023?

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The Dallas Cowboys‘ defense has been on a different planet than what many grew accustomed to during the last decade. Over the past two seasons under Dan Quinn’s tutelage, no defense in the NFL has a better EPA per play mark. They’ve been about as consistent as a defense can be over that time. However, Dallas also had one of the league’s least-difficult schedules last season. Can they keep up that level of play in 2023?

An Analytical Look at the Dallas Cowboys’ Defense

Over the past two seasons, no team has produced better EPA per play production. Only the New Orleans Saints have had a better success rate on defense during that time. Dallas’ dropback EPA dwarfs contenders, and only the Saints’ dropback success rate competes.

Cowboys fans treat the run defense like a red-headed stepchild, but it’s been one of the league’s best as well. They rank sixth in success rate over those two years, and their only bugaboo (ranking outside the top 10) is their 12th-ranked rush EPA per play ranking.

In 2022, Dallas finished second in DVOA. According to Football Outsiders, they were third-best against the pass and fifth-best against the run. The previous year, they also finished second, posting the second-best pass defense and 16th-best rushing defense.

The Cowboys’ run defense improved in 2022, and the return of Johnathan Hankins and the addition of Mazi Smith shouldn’t hurt their run defense in 2023.

But it’s Dallas’ pass rush that devastates opposing offenses. In 2022, they posted the highest pressure rate in the NFL. Only the Eagles and Chiefs sacked opposing QBs more often than Dallas. The Cowboys finished fourth in pressure rate the year prior, although they were unable to get home as often as they did in 2022.

MORE: NFC East QB Rankings 2023 — Jalen Hurts and Dak Prescott Battle for Divisional Supremacy

And while their defense doesn’t rely on the ability to turn the ball over, Dallas is darned good at that as well. They led the league in takeaways in the last two years, totaling 67.

Quinn possesses a devastating repertoire of defensive line games that he plays on obvious pass-rushing downs to affect an opposing quarterback’s timing and create havoc on the offensive line.

Just about any way one shakes it, the Cowboys’ defense has been dominant over the past two seasons. But can they keep it up?

dallas cowboys
Dec 24, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland (26) makes an interception in fron tof Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins (16) during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys 2023 Defensive Outlook

The Cowboys’ defense is ultra-talented. When PFN’s own Arif Hasan looked at their unit compared to the rest of the league, he came to the conclusion that Dallas has the second-best defense in the NFL heading into 2023, with the Jets edging them out.

On paper, Dallas’ defense has only improved from last season. Set to lose Anthony Brown in free agency, trading for Stephon Gilmore was perfect. Brown was coming off an Achilles injury, so the move made sense, particularly when we think about the fit in Quinn’s defense.

MORE: Stephon Gilmore Battles Atop the Best CB Rankings in 2023

There’s no end to the Cowboys’ depth, particularly on the edges. Micah Parsons might be the most dominant player in the NFL. Demarcus Lawrence, Sam Williams, Dorance Armstrong, Dante Fowler Jr., and Viliami Fehoko round out an incredible unit.

But there are a few defenses around the league with incredible pass rushers. It’s the middle of the Cowboys’ defense that is their secret weapon.

Cowboys Safeties Are the Team’s Unsung Heroes

We all know and understand that aside from Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys’ linebacking corps is very much an unknown entity. But Dallas’ defense doesn’t care, because it really doesn’t need more than a single linebacker for their base defense.

The Cowboys’ safety unit is built differently. Donovan Wilson, Malik Hooker, and Jayron Kearse combined to play 3,032 snaps in 2022 (each played more than 900 snaps). No other NFL team had a unit to each play over 700 snaps.

Kearse plays most of his snaps around the line of scrimmage. He’s practically a second linebacker by deployment, even if his positional designation is safety.

That’s something more NFL teams are likely to replicate moving forward, especially as Tite fronts and gap-and-a-half schemes become the norm. Teams will give a bit against the run to have a better coverage player on the field. And Kearse’s build and athleticism make him a very good weapon to use against tight ends. He also defends the run like a linebacker.

“Getting Dan Quinn back was a huge win, and it was much-needed just to try your best to keep this group together,” Kearse told 105.3 The Fan. “Because the strides we made in Year 1, it can give us a lot of upside going into Year 2, with guys being together.”

Kearse said that after Quinn returned for Year 2. Year 3 likely won’t be much different.

Speaking of defending the run like a linebacker, Wilson is a ticking time bomb. He plays with a ferocity that has often led to his own downfall. Wilson played all 17 games in 2022 but has missed time in each of the previous two seasons with various injuries.

Then, there’s Hooker. While he hasn’t been the can’t-miss free safety that we thought he was coming out of Ohio State, Hooker’s been a solid center fielder for the Cowboys. He’s also been surprisingly physical as a presence against the run as well.

Are the Cowboys a Top-3 Defense Again in 2023?

The Jets, 49ers, Chargers, Eagles (x2), Bills, and Dolphins make up the seven games Dallas plays against the top-10 offenses in 2023. But the NFL is a league of attrition. Injuries will likely tell the story of Dallas’ defensive success. For two years now, they’ve remained relatively healthy on that side of the ball.

We also know that replicating defensive success in the NFL is extremely difficult. Nevertheless, we’ve seen teams like Wink Martindale’s Baltimore Ravens (pre-2022) and Dennis Allen’s Saints defense remain consistent over a half-decade span.

MORE: Can Viliami Fehoko Become the Next Dallas Cowboys Rookie Surprise?

Adding Gilmore helps. DaRon Bland should only get better in the slot, and Jourdan Lewis should be healthy again in 2023. Unless there are a rash of injuries to the Cowboys’ best defensive players, it’s not easy to imagine the unit taking a significant step back this season, which puts a lot of pressure on the offense to step up.

“I don’t think we’re gonna see any corners playing nose tackle,” Quinn said. “But I think for the amount of space plays that we have, a receiver that can be a runner, a runner can be a receiver, a tight end that can be a receiver, a (defensive) end that can play back or a safety that can play nickel. Those perimeter type of people, I think it’s changing that way.”

Quinn has seamlessly moved pieces around on the Cowboys’ defense to put them in a position to find mismatches. It’s part of the reason why Parsons was so successful rushing the passer as a rookie while still learning how to be a professional pass rusher.

With a unit this complete, we shouldn’t be surprised when this time rolls around next year and the Cowboys’ unit has had the best three-year stretch in the NFL.



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Taylor Swift Is Shown Chugging a Beer on the Jumbotron at Super Bowl 58

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Global superstar Taylor Swift made it to the big game to support her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs star tight end Travis Kelce. In the second quarter, it was evident that she was having a good time at the Super Bowl after taking a 12-hour flight from Tokyo the night prior.

Taylor Swift Seen Chugging Beer at Super Bowl

Swift’s attendance has been highly anticipated, as many fans questioned whether she would be able to make it to the big game since she had been in Japan until Saturday for her Eras Tour.

Sure enough, she made it to the Super Bowl and was seen making a grand entrance alongside Blake Lively and Ice Spice.

Swift made it back to the States with plenty of time to make it to Allegiant Stadium to support Kelce. After a leg of her Eras Tour, where she performed several nights in Japan, the singer appeared to let loose.

In a box full of friends, Swift was shown chugging a beer with Ashley Avignone. She was shown on the jumbotron and slammed her cup down after she finished her beer.

There was a mix of cheers and boos as Swift was shown on the big screen, and a long pass to Mecole Hardman was the only highlight of the first half for Swift and her friends. The 49ers led the Chiefs, 10-0, late in the second quarter.

On social media, Swift garnered plenty of support from NFL fans.

If you’re hating on her you can kick rocks man she’s the best,” one user posted on X

“The one thing I learned this season is that she is actually fun,” another said. 

“Booing Taylor Swift chugging a beer is so soft. She’s just one of us now and I respect it ,” another posted. 

At the time of the beer chugging, Kelce, Taylor Swift’s boyfriend, has had one catch for a single yard. It came on the first possession, which ended up being a three-and-out. The Kansas City Chiefs hadn’t done much otherwise.

They did have a deep pass play to Hardman, which put them in the red zone, but Isiah Pacheco fumbled on the very next play — one that Kelce was surprisingly on the sideline for.

Swift and Kelce have garnered much media attention as their romance has taken off throughout this NFL season.

Swift was able to support her boyfriend at many of his games throughout the final stretch of the season, as her Eras Tour was on a break. But starting on Feb. 7, she went back on the road.

MORE: NFL World Reacts to Unbelievable Super Bowl Trick Play

Despite performing in Tokyo the night before the Super Bowl, she was able to make it in time to support her boyfriend due to the time difference and is having a good time doing so.

As the 2023 NFL season comes to a close, the 2024 NFL Draft is on the horizon. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!

Listen to the PFN Fantasy Podcast

Listen to the PFN Fantasy Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Fantasy Podcast on our Fantasy YouTube channel.





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What Happened to the 49ers Linebacker?

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The San Francisco 49ers sustained a massive blow during the second quarter of Super Bowl 58, as linebacker Dre Greenlaw left the game on a medical cart.

CBS Sports confirmed that the veteran Greenlaw suffered an Achilles tear, ruling him out for the rest of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

What Happened to Dre Greenlaw?

The outside linebacker, who had already been battling past injuries to his hamstrings and calves, left with what appeared to be a leg injury.

And somehow, his left leg looked like it buckled as he tried to trot onto the field with the Niners’ defense.

Greenlaw clutched his left leg in agony before being helped off the field.

CBS Sports sideline reporter Evan Washburn reported that the outside linebacker left with what was ruled as a lower leg injury. He was later determined to sustain an Achilles injury.

Greenlaw was declared out for the rest of the game.

Greenlaw Carted Off in Passenger Seat

Even more noticeable was where Greenlaw sat on the cart.

He ended up leaving not in the back of the medical vehicle but ended up riding shotgun with his leg injury.

One would think that with an injury like an Achilles ailment, medical officials would try to make the player as comfortable as possible before they leave. It wasn’t the case here.

MORE: San Francisco 49ers Depth Chart

Regardless, Greenlaw was replaced by Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles for the rest of the first half. Greenlaw became the most significant injury of the game.

As the 2023 NFL season comes to a close, the 2024 NFL Draft is on the horizon. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!

Listen to the PFN Fantasy Podcast

Listen to the PFN Fantasy Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Fantasy Podcast on our Fantasy YouTube channel.





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NFL World Reacts to Epic Super Bowl Intro From CBS

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Super Bowl 58 is here and it’s going to be exciting. The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs are facing off in the final game of 2023.

CBS is broadcasting the game and the opening was nothing short of amazing. How is the NFL world reacting to the electric Super Bowl-opening video?

Epic CBS Super Bowl Intro Garners Reaction From NFL World

The video, which spanned four minutes and 19 seconds, featured players from both teams talking about the big game and what it means to them. It also featured their families talking about their journeys to this point.

“Amazing intro! Reminds me of my dad! Bravo on the intro!,” one NFL fan said on X (formerly known as Twitter)

Additionally, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played in the background, giving it a near-movie feel. “This was incredible.,” another person said on X. “And so, the @49ers and @Chiefs face that final curtain,” CBS Sports said.

The 49ers finished the regular season as the top seed in the NFC with a 12-5 record. After their first-round bye, they defeated both the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions to earn their trip to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl. Both of their victories came in comeback fashion, including an NFC Championship-record 17-point comeback.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, had a more uphill battle. Entering the playoffs as the AFC’s third seed, they finished the regular season with an 11-6 record. In the playoffs, they defeated the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and Baltimore Ravens to punch their ticket.

Super Bowl 58 is a re-match of Super Bowl 54 when the Chiefs defeated the 49ers 31-24. The win was the first in Patrick Mahomes career, as he also won Super Bowl MVP. Four years later, the Chiefs have made three more and won another. For the 49ers, this is their first trip back to the big game since.

The game kicked off at 6:30 p.m. ET with the 49ers receiving the opening kick. In addition to being broadcast on CBS, the game is also being streamed on Paramount+.

As the 2023 NFL season comes to a close, the 2024 NFL Draft is on the horizon. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!

Listen to the PFN Fantasy Podcast

Listen to the PFN Fantasy Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Fantasy Podcast on our Fantasy YouTube channel.





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