When it comes to pass rushers, the Cowboys have an embarrassment of riches on their hands. Not only does Dallas field one of the best rushers in the game in Micah Parsons, but they also have Pro Bowler DeMarcus Lawrence, Dante Fowler, Dorance Armstrong and Sam Williams.
And that’s just outside players.
Inside, the Cowboys have Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gallimore and Chauncey Golston applying pressure. The last two may not be well-regarded pass rushers, but Odighizuwa is currently second in the NFL in DT pass rush win rate, despite being double-teamed 66 percent of the time this season.
With so many talented pass rushers across the defensive line, it’s difficult to tell which is the best combination in Dallas. When the passing situation is obvious and the Cowboys are pinning their ears back and hunting for quarterbacks, who makes up the best NASCAR package?
Arjun Menon, formerly of PFF, ran the numbers across the league and found out. Not only did he determine who the Cowboys’ top four-man passing rushing combination is, but also how that group stacks up across the NFL.
Filtering for plays in which there were only four pass-rushers with a minimum of 10 snaps together, it was determined Fowler, Lawrence, Armstrong and Parsons are the best foursome in Dallas.
In a field of 86 qualified groups, the Cowboys’ top grouping finished tops in the league. Their 90.91% pressure rate isn’t just astonishingly high, but it’s over 20 percent higher than the second most efficient foursome.
Best 4 man pass rushing combo for every team in the league this season on plays with only 4 rushers, sorted by pressure rate along with where that ranks in the league. MIN & ARI don't have a combo with enough snaps together to be a part of the table pic.twitter.com/0f3uyTtQP8
— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) October 24, 2023
It’s immediately apparent to anyone looking at these four players, the Cowboys top foursome is comprised solely of EDGE players.
By reducing Lawrence and Armstrong inside, the Cowboys can load up on speed and explosiveness. Since this package is reserved for obvious passing situations, there is a greatly reduced fear of the run so stoutness can safely be sacrificed for speed.
Since Dan Quinn is a defensive coordinator who’s naturally adverse to blitzing, the Cowboys also stunt at a high rate. By twisting his ends and tackles he can create confusion with blocking assignments. It changes angles and can expose inexperienced offensive linemen.
Obviously in base or even standard nickel personnel, the Cowboys would have one or two DTs inside who can hold up against the run. But even that has elite pass rush potential. As alluded to earlier, Odighizuwa is amongst the best in the league in creating pressure. Double-teams don’t even stop him.
But even Golston has some potential bubbling beneath the surface. His one sack this season isn’t going to get his picture on a Wheaties box, but according to PFF, Golston’s 21.2 win percentage ranks him fifth amongst DTs, slotting him right between Aaron Donald and Chris Jones this season.
At the end of the day, the Cowboys have a handful of good players capable of rushing the passer with high-end efficiency. But on obvious passing downs, the top combination is clear because they’re not just the best on the team, they’re the best in the NFL.