Two words nobody wants paired in the same sentence are the two words DeMarcus Lawrence happened to use to describe the Dallas Cowboys‘ historically futile defense.
The self-described alpha male of the Cowboys’ locker room, Lawrence did not set the football world alight with his performance amid the team’s second consecutive defeat, dropping them to 1-3. With three solo tackles, he was no match for a Cleveland running game that piled up 307 yards — 239 after losing Pro Bowler Nick Chubb to a first-quarter knee injury.
For context: The Browns’ leading rusher was 2018 UDFA D’Ernest Johnson (13 carries, 95 yards, 7.3 YPC), whose name you probably didn’t know 24 hours ago.
More context: Cleveland scored on a Jarvis Landry-to-Odell Beckham pass and a 50-yard Beckham run.
So what’s wrong? For one, it’s a personnel issue; starters like safety Xavier Woods, linebacker Jaylon Smith, and defensive back Daryl Worley played at a replacement level.
It’s also a scheme issue; the buzz surrounding new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is that his playbook is too complex (on top of being ineffectual).
And a health issue; Dallas is missing starting linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee and cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Anthony Brown, all of whom remain on injured reserve.
But it isn’t Lawrence’s issue to solve.
“It’s not my job to worry about the scheme or worrying about what the next man is doing,” he said, via The Athletic. “I already have a hard enough job myself. It’s all about attacking and I don’t feel like we’re doing that at all as a unit.”
Lawrence probably should focus on his job. After a disappointing five-sack 2019 campaign, the $105 million pass-rusher has yet to register a sack through four games. He hasn’t so much as hit an opposing quarterback, contributing to the misery that is the Cowboys defense.
Which is on pace to allow a franchise-record 584 points this season. Which is the first NFL team to cede 38-plus-points and fail to intercept a pass across three consecutive games. Perhaps most disturbingly, they cannot even tackle properly.
This, despite the presence of Lawrence and Everson Griffen. Despite boasting the league’s top sack artist (entering Sunday). Despite the impressive effort of rookie CB Trevon Diggs.
“We’ve got so much talent. But without grit and toughness, it doesn’t count for much,” Lawrence said.
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McCarthy Blames Himself for Loss
An agitated Mike McCarthy stood before the Cowboys media to atone for a “very disappointing home loss” to the Browns.
“Turnovers got us on offense again. I’m disappointed,” the Cowboys head coach said, via The Athletic. “We need to start games better. We need to do a better job of bringing our preparation (to the game). That starts with me.”
But rather than castigate Nolan for his unit’s deficiencies — lack of edge containment, poor tackling, and blown coverages — McCarthy accepted responsibility for the Cowboys’ spiraling championship aspirations.
“It ultimately falls at my feet…What I don’t like is the pattern of the 4 games. The points are outrageous, time of possession is totally lopsided and we’re minus-7 in the turnover ratio,” he said, via The Athletic. “Not a winning formula.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL