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Mailbag: Will The Defense Rank In The Top 10?


Could the defense be top-10 this season? I really feel like this team is on the cusp of taking a big step forward defensively coming off a relatively good season. I think the tides are turning. — NICK THORNTON / TROY, NY

Rob: For my money, they were a top-10 defense last season. They ranked 19th in total defense (351.0 yards allowed per game) but seventh in average points allowed (21.7). How much are you allowing the other team to score? That's the most important measure to me. And Football Outsiders ranked them second overall last year using their DVOA system, which factors in takeaways (they led the league with 34). You can't pencil in 30-plus takeaways every year, and there are obviously things to clean up regarding the run defense, big plays in the passing game and penalties. But yeah, I think they're capable of reaching top-10 status again depending on which metrics you use.

Kyle: If they're not a top-10 defense this season I think that would be a massive disappointment. Which itself is a true testament to the job Dan Quinn did last season. Leading the league in takeaways (34), interceptions (27) and bringing the majority of their 2021 talent back, should have them contending to be in the top five of defenses in the league. It starts with limiting big penalties and slowing down the run, both of which should be doable within a single season. If Quinn could do what he did with that unit in one offseason, imagine what he could do in his second season.

I understand the concept of protecting your veterans and getting a better look at players on the roster bubble, but do you think we could see some additional game play from key starters this preseason? With such a tough start to the schedule, I'd love to see the starters log some additional snaps. — ROB RIGGIERI / RUTLAND, MA

Rob: Based on what we've seen in the past, I doubt the starters' preseason playing time will rise much. No team in the league does that, particularly with a 17th game in the regular season now. However, I am curious to see if maybe Dak Prescott and the wide receivers get slightly more preseason snaps together given the offseason receiver changes and lack of consistent reps in OTAs/minicamp due to injuries at the position.

Kyle: Overall it's a safe bet that most of the roster's preseason reps would remain the same. However, I could see the possibility of the higher-end wide receivers (not named CeeDee Lamb) getting extra reps with Dak Prescott. And if Prescott is out there, he'll have most of his starting offensive line out there as well. Even if that does happen, they wouldn't be in much longer than normal. However, instead of one series in a game, they could maybe see two. Just little increases to keep the best possible protection and maximize reps.

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