Jim Schwartz’s defense hasn’t exactly played lights out this year. They’ve been an up-and-down group, pretty much the entire team has. But Schwartz’s crew has an opportunity to really make a statement this week as they prepare to face the sputtering Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas’ offense was on fire with Dak Prescott at the helm, leading the league in yards per game and averaging 31.5 points. But without their franchise quarterback, it looks the entire Cowboys organization has thrown in the towel. Their defense has been horrendous all season, and now that their offense has gone down the tubes, they look like one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Backup quarterback Andy Dalton is listed as questionable heading into this Sunday night matchup, as he’s still in concussion protocol after taking that blatant cheap shot against Washington. Chances are he won’t play this Sunday. That hit was vicious, and believing Dalton will recover from that in just one week’s time seems like wishful thinking.
If Dalton can’t go, seventh round rookie Ben DiNucci will be the man under center for Dallas. In Dalton’s absence, DiNucci went 2-for-3 for 39 yards while getting sacked three times. Washington has a solid defense, ranking 10th in the league, but there’s no reason Philly’s defense shouldn’t have similar success against this rookie quarterback.
Schwartz has never been one to throw an assortment of blitzes at opposing offenses. Instead, he relies on his front four to create pressure. It’s worked out well so far this year, as the defense is tied for third in sacks with 24 while having the sixth lowest blitz percentage (21.9%). They will likely be able to get pressure with just their front four again in this one against Dallas’ depleted offensive line. But it would behoove Schwartz to mix it up a little to ensure DiNucci doesn’t have any opportunities to get anything going.
Coming out of JMU, DiNucci has never experienced anything close to an NFL level defense, or a true NFL defensive scheme for that matter. Sending a multitude of blitzes at the rookie will spook him from the start, and chances are he won’t be able to recover from it. Force DiNucci to make quick, decisive decisions with the football. Don’t give him any extra time to process what he’s seeing.
Being aggressive and getting after the passer is a solid game plan against any quarterback in the NFL. Facing a guy who’s going into his first NFL matchup, it’s a no brainer.