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Cowboys News: Which three players could benefit most from new Cowboys coaching staff?

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Plus, more news on the new head man in Dallas.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

3 Cowboys players who could benefit the most from Mike McCarthy and his staff, including QB Dak Prescott - John Owning, Dallas Morning News

What three Cowboys could benefit most from the new coaching staff?

LB Jaylon Smith...McCarthy may not have a huge effect on the defense, but Nolan will. And while there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the potential philosophical and schematic changes Nolan will make to the defense, one thing is clear: He will do his best to improve the play of the linebackers.

He wasn’t the defensive coordinator, but Nolan did phenomenal work as the Saints’ linebackers coach. After inheriting one of the NFL’s worst linebacker units in 2017 (his first year in New Orleans), Nolan has turned it into a respectable group. In particular, he helped turn Demario Davis into one of the best linebackers in football, as evidenced by Davis’ first-team All-Pro nod this season.

“One of the best linebackers coaches I’ve ever had,” Davis said of Nolan, via NOLA.com.” Very experienced and knowledgeable about the game of football. He truly helped me become a better player.”

While that may seem like lip service or a cliche from a former player, Davis’ incredible and immediate success under Nolan indicates it’s not.

Before his stop in New Orleans and a year away from the field, Nolan spent 2015 as linebackers coach for the then-San Diego Chargers. Denzel Perryman is still trying to replicate his effectiveness from that year, in particular. That season, as a rookie, Perryman set career bests in solo tackles, tackles for loss and average tackle depth, according to Sports Info Solutions. He also limited broken/missed tackles better in 2015 than in any other season, missing just 4.2% of his tackling attempts. He has missed more than 13% of his tackle attempts in every season since.

3 issues Mike McCarthy must address in Dallas, including how to get the most out of Cowboys’ biggest stars - Calvin Watkins, Dallas Morning News

Three things that new head coach Mike McCarthy must do to get more out of the Cowboys’ roster.

The two best weapons on offense (nothing against Amari Cooper, but he slumped toward the end of 2019) are Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. All Prescott has known is Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan and Kellen Moore.

Now McCarthy will have to develop a relationship with Prescott. Both men have easygoing personalities that would indicate this shouldn’t be an issue. McCarthy likes to push players to succeed, and Prescott has said he wants that in his coach.

McCarthy has no problem giving his quarterbacks the freedom to implement things in the game plan and make the necessary changes to forge success. So Prescott and McCarthy should have a good marriage.

Now Elliott. McCarthy isn’t noted for his running games, yet that might be more about what he had than what he wanted to do. Eddie Lacy rushed for more than 1,000 yards in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Lacy earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2013 with 1,178 rushing yards. Yet, in McCarthy’s final three seasons with the Packers, his teams had among the lowest rushing attempts in the NFL. But as one source said of McCarthy, “He didn’t have Zeke.”

Mike McCarthy talks Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, working with Jerry Jones, and so much more - Dave Halprin and RJ Ochoa,Blogging The Boys

In case you missed anything, here is our overview of the Mike McCarthy press conference from yesterday afternoon.


The Cowboys introduced Mike McCarthy as head coach and he talked about the future.

McCarthy on 3-4 or 4-3, Dez Catch, Dak & More - Nick Eatman, dallascowboys.com

More insight from the McCarthy press conference.

When asked about how he expects Ezekiel Elliott’s role to be, McCarthy referred to him by his nickname, stating that he would obviously be a big part of the offense. “With Zeke, he's gonna get the football. Let's not make any mistake about that. I think you have to clearly understand that when you say 'the offense is gonna make the quarterback successful', the best way to make him successful is a great running game."

While asked a couple of different ways to discuss his coaching staff, McCarthy chose not to give many details as there are several things still in the works for both sides of the ball. Reportedly, McCarthy is set to bring on Mike Nolan, Jim Tomsula and John Fassel, along with Kellen Moore coming back as the offensive coordinator.

Another aspect McCarthy didn’t answer, which is still rather interesting in its own way, is that he didn’t reveal whether the team would stay in a 4-3 scheme or switch back to the 3-4 defense. Nolan has a history of playing both styles in his past, although the Cowboys would likely have to add several new pieces up front if they indeed made a switch to the 3-4, a defense they played under Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips.

How Easily Could Cowboys Convert to 3-4 Defense in 2020? - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star

With Mike Nolan coming in as the new DC, could Dallas switch back to a 3-4 defense?

In the 4-3 scheme, which Dallas has employed since 2013, there are four defensive linemen and three linebackers in the front seven. The 3-4 flips those numbers; three linemen and four linebackers.

Dallas used the 3-4 defense from 2003-2012. It was initially installed by Bill Parcells and continued by Wade Phillips. However, after two years of Rob Ryan’s work, the Cowboys chose to bring in Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli to switch back to the traditional 4-3 scheme. Mike Nolan has worked with both schemes, having run a 4-3 defense during his time with the Atlanta Falcons from 2012-2014. He has spent the last three years as the linebackers coach for the New Orleans Saints, who also use a 4-3 scheme.

Still, Nolan’s primarily considered a 3-4 guy. So if new Dallas Head Coach Mike McCarthy is bringing him in to lead a scheme change, how quickly can the Cowboys make that switch with their current players?

Mike McCarthy: Dak Prescott's Success Will Be Focal Point of Cowboys Offense - Tyler Conway, Bleacher Report

Mike McCarthy knows how important Dak Prescott’s performance is to the overall success of the team.

"I'm not really ready to talk about who is on staff let alone who is calling plays. The structure and way we do things will be similar to how I've always done it," McCarthy, who called plays in Green Bay, told reporters.

McCarthy mentioned adding an analytics component to his decision-making at several points during the press conference. The former Packers coach spent his season out of football engrossing himself in the analytics side of things, hoping to adapt after many felt his style became stale late in his Green Bay tenure.

Staleness was, to many, a hallmark of the Garrett era. The Cowboys finished with a losing record only once under Garrett but won just two playoff games and consistently failed to live up to preseason expectations. McCarthy said he has no misgivings about the expectations for a Cowboys coach.

"The goal will never change here. It's about winning championships," McCarthy said. "But the expectation is going to be trusting the process."

Kellen Moore Expected Back; 2 Assistants Added - Nick Eatman, David Helman,Rob Phillips, dallascowboys.com

Looks like Kellen Moore will stay, and John Fassel and Jim Tomsula will join him on the staff.

Recently, Moore was linked to the University of Washington offensive coordinator job but he apparently decided to return for a second year in Dallas under McCarthy.

Fassel comes to Dallas having just finished his 15th year in the NFL — all of them as a special teams coach. He got his start in 2005 with Baltimore and also spent two years with the Oakland Raiders. But he has spent the vast majority of his NFL career with the Rams, where he served as the special teams coordinator from 2012 until the end of the 2019 season.

Fassel has grown into one of the most highly-regarded special teams coaches in the NFL during that time, as his units have consistently finished top 10 in the league during his tenure. Fassel was also instrumental in developing the Rams’ specialist trio of Greg Zuerlein, Johnny Hekker and Jake McQuaide, who have combined for seven Pro Bowl appearances.

Tomsula has coached Washington’s defensive line for the past three seasons – a perennially talented group that has presented challenges for the Cowboys’ decorated offensive line.

BTB Podcast

Mike McCarthy’s first press conference as the Cowboys head coach happened on Wednesday. We discussed our takeaways (plus what Aaron Rodgers said about McCarthy on the latest episode of The Ocho.

Make sure that you never miss an episode from Blogging The Boys by subscribing to the Blogging The Boys podcast feed!