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Position battleground (defense): Cowboys vs. Packers head-to-head breakdown for defensive positions

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

A positional head-to-head breakdown on the Week 10 matchup between the Cowboys and Packers to find the strengths and weaknesses of each defensive position.

Previously we broke down the offense for this week’s upcoming game for the Dallas Cowboys, now we dive back into the position battleground, this time looking at how the Cowboys and Packers defensive positions and special teams stack up against each other.

DEFENSIVE LINE

These two defenses are far apart. It all starts, as it always does, with the defensive line. Dallas added more talent and depth to an already dominant defensive line in Tarell Basham. He is now off injured reserve and back in practice, ready to be added to the rotation. DeMarcus Lawrence is playing with his hair on fire, and is leading the defensive linemen in pressures, and is second in sacks. Dorance Armstrong is still playing well, but one criticism could be that he’s hasn’t got a sack since Week 6. What’s good to see is Dante Fowler getting incrementally better with each game, and his game against Chicago may have been his best for Dallas so far. For a Packers team that likes to lean on the run, look to players like Johnathan Hankins and edge defenders like Lawrence, to slow the Packer running backs and help remove a major dimension to the Green Bay offense, and something this defense does struggle against.

For the Packers, they play primarily with an odd front. And their three front guys struggle which ever way they rotate it. Their nose tackle, Kenny Clark, does a decent enough job at tackling when he finds his man, but his ability to the hold the middle and two-gap in run defense is lacking consistency. The team’s leader in sacks and pressures, Rashan Gary, got placed on injured reserve. What the Packers decide to do to fill that spot will likely come down to one of their rookie defensive linemen.

Win: Cowboys

Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

LINEBACKER

Smith/Walker/Campbell vs Parsons/Vander Esch/Barr (Clark)

De’Vondre Campbell and Preston Smith are both dealing with injuries, with Campbell being the most likely to not play this week. The Packers first-round pick, Quay Walker, is leading the team in tackles, and with Gary not playing he now leads the team in sacks. Depth for the Packers linebacker corps is needed as Krys Barnes is on concussion protocol, but Isaiah McDuffie and Eric Wilson only count for a total of nine tackles this season between them.

Meanwhile for Dallas, Micah Parsons awaits the Packers. The Packers losses have this in common, Aaron Rodgers is struggling against pressure causing him to make bad decisions with the ball, and to throw with bad mechanics. For Dallas, that means getting the player with the forth most pressures in the NFL in Rodgers face. Anthony Barr may not play this week, so get ready for some more Damone Clark, who had is debut in the NFL last week and didn’t look bad filling in.

Win: Cowboys

Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Everyone talks about the problems stopping the run with the Dallas defense. Most of the time it’s runs on the outside where it all goes wrong. Aaron Jones is formidable at running the toss-sweep and on screen receptions, so the cornerbacks for Dallas will play an important role at stopping the running back. The good news, though, in terms of passing defense is that Aaron Rodgers only trusts Allen Lazard to throw to, and even when the run game is dominating the game script, we see Rodgers playing hero ball and trying to win the game at the abandonment of the run game.

Trevon Diggs versus Lazard should be a favorable matchup for Diggs, and the rest of the cornerbacks should handle what receivers the Packers have left. Sammy Watkins is nursing a knee injury, Romeo Doubs may not play with an ankle injury, and Christian Watson was in concussion protocol, but looks likely to play. For Dallas, Malik Hooker is healthy and practiced in full, Donovan Wilson was limited but is set to suit up Sunday, and DaRon Bland gets to take on the vacant slot corner position for the rest of the season.

Eric Stokes could miss this week, and that’s another big loss for Green Bay if he doesn’t play. Jaire Alexander is their best corner, very good at playing from the slot when given the chance, and if he travels with CeeDee Lamb to the slot, he will really test Lamb. For some reason though, the Packers keep Alexander out of the slot, but with Rasul Douglas questionable to play this week, this makes this a very important position to watch on the practice report. Both safeties at Green Bay, Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos, both get beaten with regularity, and have given up five touchdowns between them this year.

Win: Cowboys

Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Green Bay practice injury report at the moment is a lengthy list. Kicker Mason Crosby is currently on the list and needs to be watched. As Cowboys fans, we’ve had the “back” tag listed on our kicker before, and know how that ended, so let’s see what news comes from Crosby’s back injury as we get closer to game time. Brett Maher is not only healthy but out-kicking Crosby this year. Both kickers have missed two field goals, but Maher’s have both been at 50+ yards, Crosby has only one attempt at the 50+ distance and missed, his other miss was at 44 yards against the Jets.

Bryan Anger has more punt yards, average distance per punt, longer hang time and less yards returned. But make no mistake, Pat O’Donnell is a decent punter for Green Bay and can pin teams back. Packers have Armani Rodgers in punt return, but KaVontae Turpin has more return yards, a longer run, and less muffed catches.

Win: Cowboys


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