The Cowboys’ defense is not nearly as good as some would like to think, and that’s a big reason why the defense struggled last year.

Here are five reasons why.

1.

Dallas’ defense played like a 4-3 during its four years under the Mike Zimmer regime.

The Cowboys used a 3-4 scheme in 2012, but that has been phased out and has become a 3-, 4- and 5-man scheme.

In fact, the Cowboys have used a lot of personnel in this scheme, as evidenced by their 3-9 record last year and their 3rd-best DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) last season.

2.

Defensive line coach Paul Dickson is a man of many talents.

He’s worked in the NFL for more than 20 years, but his expertise in this area is only partially known.

He has coached in every level of football and coached several defensive linemen at the NFL level.

He is known for his ability to get players to do things they weren’t trained to do, as he has seen in the defensive end position.

3.

The defensive line has not been good, but the Cowboys haven’t been awful either.

The line of scrimmage has improved each year and Dallas’ defensive linemen rank fourth in the league with a sack rate of 16.1 percent, third in tackles for loss (9.9) and fifth in sacks (6.5).

4.

The defense is now better than it was when the Cowboys won Super Bowl XLVIII.

The unit has improved every year under Zimmer, but it is not as strong as it was a year ago.

The 2017 Cowboys ranked fourth in defensive DVOA, while the 2016 Cowboys ranked sixth.

The 2016 Cowboys also had one of the best defensive lines in the NFC, and the 2017 Cowboys are clearly a better unit than last year’s team.

5.

Dallas is one of only two teams to play in three consecutive NFC Championship Games, joining the Cowboys (2014) and Cardinals (2015).

The last time Dallas played in a Super Bowl was in the 2007 NFC Championship Game, and this year’s Cowboys are also the only team to play four games in a row, along with the Giants, Panthers and Packers.

If Dallas does not make the playoffs, this will be the last time they have ever won a championship.

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