3 Cowboys defenders who could thrive under DC Mike Nolan: Is LB Jaylon Smith due for bounce-back season? - John Owning, Dallas Morning News
Which defenders will benefit most from the change at DC?
My theory is that the Cowboys scheme was one of the biggest reasons why Woods didn’t quite reach his Pro Bowl expectations in 2019. Under the previous staff, Dallas opted to play a vast majority of their defensive snaps in a single-high structure, as the Cowboys played Cover 3 at an extremely high clip. This made the Dallas defense predictable, which allowed opposing QBs to anticipate the location of the Cowboys defenders based on the likely coverage, making it easy for opposing QBs to consistently target the voids in Dallas’ Cover 3.
Nolan has stated that he likes to mix up his looks and coverages to keep opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable. Expect the Cowboys to use a much higher percentage of split-safety coverage along with more pre-snap disguise from the Cowboys defense. A less predictable scheme should create more turnover opportunities for Woods on the backend, as QBs won’t be able to so easily identify and track the voids of the Dallas DBs, which will lead to more post-snap mistakes from opposing QBs.
With more opportunities to create turnovers, Woods will be in a great position to fulfill his expectations coming out of camp last season, even if it is a year later than most of us believed.
Mike McCarthy has coached some great teams, but he may have his most experienced one this year in Dallas.
McCarthy's most experienced group ever? That might sound like a surprise given all the Packers playoff teams he coached over the years, and his new Cowboys team going decidedly younger at key positions the last few years.
But, if you look at the Cowboys' core veterans – the 50-plus returning players who have spent time on the active roster, plus their unrestricted free agent signings from the spring – the average age is 26.7 years old. The rookies who will make the team – first-round pick CeeDee Lamb and others – will bring down that average a little. But that number is above or right in line with all McCarthy's Packers teams from 2006-18, according to Pro Football Reference.
McCarthy's Super Bowl team in 2010? The average age was 26.3. The defending champion Packers team in 2011, fresh off a league lockout? 25.9. That 2011 Packers team had most advantageous experience of all: championship mettle. This year's Cowboys team, despite several stars hovering above or below age 25, have some playoff experience in the Dak-Zeke era themselves.
The other Connor is one to watch out for.
The Cowboys actually have two draft picks joining the offensive line this season. One is 2020 fourth-round pick Tyler Biadasz. The other is Connor McGovern, last year’s third-round pick.
McGovern missed his entire rookie season due to a pectoral injury during spring workouts. But the Cowboys like his potential. A year ago, they viewed him as a ‘blinking light’ pick at the end of the third round – too good to pass up, even with Frederick on his way back from GBS at the time.
McGovern was an All-Big Ten player at Penn State, and he started full seasons at center and guard for the Nittany Lions. Now healthy, he could compete at both spots in camp.
Cornerback is by far the most unpredictable position group in 2020.
After stealing Wide Receiver CeeDee Lamb out of Oklahoma with the 17th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Cowboys made waves again just a round later when they snagged Cornerback Trevon Diggs out of Alabama. Diggs, at around 6’2 and 205 pounds, has a rare combination of size and length at the cornerback position. As a former receiver, he has very good ball skills and can read the instincts of his opponent and use his size to disrupt routes. Even as a rookie, look for him to lead the way as the Cowboys CB1.
Maurice Canady, signed in March, will provide veteran experience behind Diggs. In his four years in the NFL, Canady has appeared in 32 games with four starts (three starts in 2019 for the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens).
Veteran cornerback Daryl Worley, who put ink to paper on a Cowboys deal in April, will likely be the starter opposite Diggs as CB2. Worley has more game experience than the aforementioned Canady even though they both entered the league in 2016. He’s started 49 of the 56 games he’s appeared in with 34 pass breakups (no less than eight in any season) and five interceptions.
Could adding Jadeveon Clowney, Jamal Adams make Cowboys super? - Matt Aaron, FanSided's The Landry Hat
Could adding these two Pro-Bowlers make the Cowboys a true Super Bowl favorite?
Remember, he’s a safety! Colin Cowherd, host of The Herd on FS1 has even called Adams one of the top ten players in the game at any position, as reported by Kristian Dyer at Sports Illustrated. Clowney, though he didn’t have huge numbers last year, is still in his prime at 27, and one of the best overall defensive ends in the game. He’s very tough at run defense and had 18.5 sacks between 2017-2018. Even when he doesn’t get to the passer, he’s a major disruptive force.
Either one of these guys could be a difference-maker for the Cowboys. But what if America’s Team could swing them both? Well, just imagine Clowney on the line with fellow Pro Bowlers, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, Poe, and McCoy. How’d you like to try blocking that lineup? And that’s just the starting four. Dallas would still have Aldon Smith, Tyrone Crawford, and Gallimore off the bench.
Adding Adams to the starting rotation at safety with Xavier Woods would bring the weakest point of Dallas’s defense to maybe its strongest. Remember, the Cowboys will have three Pro Bowlers at linebacker this year, in Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, and Sean Lee.There would still be questions at cornerback, but between the draft and free agency, the Cowboys have thrown a ton of darts at the position. In this fantasy scenario, Dallas would likely have one of the strongest front nine (defensive line, linebackers, and safeties) in the league.
What are your expectations for the Cowboys defense? We discuss on the latest episode of Talkin’ The Star.
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