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The Dallas Cowboys highlight why defenses should prioritize coverage over pass rush

Arlington, Texas, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton (86) catches a pass against Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (27) in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The first season of the Mike McCarthy era has got off to a disastrous start. The Dallas Cowboys sit at just 2-5, and they have been bombarded with season-ending injuries to key offensive starters such as Blake Jarwin, Tyron Smith, La’el Collins and free-agent-to-be Dak Prescott.

Those injuries have started to take their toll on an offense that came into the year projected to be one of the best in the NFL, but lost in the shadows of those headlines is a defense that has been under siege from the offset of the 2020 season.

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Remarkably, the Cowboys can still come out of Week 8 in first place in the NFC East with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football. However, for that to happen, they need to offer some semblance of resistance against Carson Wentz and his own injury-riddled offense.

Under first-year coordinator Mike Nolan, the Cowboys defense ranks 29th in expected points allowed per play through seven weeks. They’ve forced a league-low two turnovers, and they rank dead last in team defense grade here at PFF.

Just last year, the Cowboys ranked 14th in EPA allowed per play. Back in 2018, they were a top-10 unit, ranking eighth in the same metric. So what has led to such a steep drop-off this season?

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