The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2019 NFL season believing their defense was right on the cusp of becoming elite. Despite fairly strong showings through the first three weeks, however, the team was promptly humbled by Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers —not a huge surprise— and then the New York Jets —much bigger surprise.
In those games, the defense fell flat, getting gashed by Aaron Jones, 19 carries for 107 yards and 4 touchdowns, and Sam Darnold 23/32 for 338 yards and 2 touchdowns. In those two games alone, Dallas fell behind by a combined score of 52-6 in the first half. Obviously, the offense shoulders its share of blame for such a stat existing, but for a defense many expected to be the team’s strongest unit to collapse to such a degree is beyond alarming. Still, the utter lack of turnovers it had generated to that point on the year made it all the worst.
Sure, the team bounced back the following week against Philadelphia, routing the Eagles while forcing four takeaways in a 37-10 smack down, but when it’s one game out of seven, should we just assume that performance would be the new standard? Thankfully, Dallas didn’t care to wait and see and instead moved to acquire Michael Bennett from New England at the trade deadline.
While Bennett’s presence may not lead to an increase in interceptions, he certainly should provide an increase in quarterback pressure, which could create some much needed havoc for the Cowboys defense. In fact, among defensive linemen with a minimum of 50 pass rushes attempts this season, Michael Bennett ranks sixth in the league with a pressure rate of 34.5%. Complement that with fellow Cowboys defensive linemen Robert Quinn (46.2%) and DeMarcus Lawrence (29.6%), and you’ve got yourself a nightmare for opposing lines. What’s more, it means Dallas not only plugged its recent Tyrone Crawford-sized hole in the defensive rotation, but managed to substantially upgrade in the process.
Last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, Bennett recorded 9 sacks, 34 tackles, and 2 forced fumbles. For a third pass rusher, and one you acquired for a future sixth round pick, that’s fantastic production to add to the mix. While Bennett may not be a spring chicken anymore at 34, Dallas is more than confident that he still has plenty left in the tank.
Back in a December showdown last season, Bennett recorded 7 tackles (5 solo), 1.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, and 5 QB hits in a particularly interesting game. The opponent? The Dallas Cowboys. Put simply, Michael Bennett was a monster on that night, utilizing his ability to rush from either end position or generate pressure put up the middle. He’s a quality run stopper, which addresses a huge need for the Dallas defense, and should give the team another high-end pass rusher who can get after opposing QBs.
Given his stint in Philadelphia was just 10 months ago, it’s reasonable to assume Bennett has plenty left in the tank and can still take a game over every now and then. While Bennett and the Cowboys have already reworked his deal to make him a free agent this offseason, thereby solidifying his status as a cheap rental, there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t have a significant impact on the nine remaining games on the schedule.
In fact, he could become a downright monster opponents have no choice but to play one-on-one alongside Quinn and Lawrence.