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Cowboys news: Dan Quinn bringing an identity to Dallas defense

The news you may have missed from Tuesday

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Gerald McCoy’s future with Cowboys: Team interested in re-signing Pro Bowler, but decision falls on Dan Quinn - Patrik Walker, CBS Sports

About a month ago, it seemed as if the Cowboys were all the way on board with bringing back Gerald McCoy after a training camp injury ended his Cowboys tenure before it even started. But now Dan Quinn is running the defense, which could lessen the chance of McCoy being brought back.

“You talk about two of your better defensive tackles in Trysten [Hill] and [Gerald] McCoy. There’s some opportunities out there that are going to return to us that should be a big help to us.”

That bodes well for McCoy’s chances in Dallas, but there are also obvious concerns Quinn and Durde (neither having been on-staff when Jones made the proclamation) will voice that must be a part of the dialogue. For not only is the six-time Pro Bowler set to turn 33 before free agency arrives, his age factoring into if he’ll be able to recover fully from the aforementioned torn quad, and clearly the Cowboys had pre-existing concerns about it potentially being an issue — so much so they included contract language specific to it that protected them in the event of injury.

That said, McCoy could still bring strong value to a front that clearly needs assistance on the defensive interior. This is particularly true when assessing the situation at 3-tech (right of center), seeing as Tyrone Crawford is mulling retirement — separate sources confirm to CBS Sports — after also undergoing surgery ahead of free agency. There was impressive progress made at the position by rookie third-round pick Neville Gallimore on the back end of the season, but he wasn’t unleashed until after former second-round pick Trysten Hill went down with a season-ending torn ACL in October, and the latter is simply another reason to keep McCoy on the radar for a second straight year.

Defensive Identity? Dan Quinn Wants 3 Key Traits - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com

Dan Quinn has replaced Mike Nolan in an attempt to simplify things for the Cowboys defenders and get them back to playing good football. While he’s just getting started, Quinn has already carved out what identity he wants his unit to have.

It remains to be seen exactly how Quinn’s system will look, but he emphasized that he prioritizes “players first over the scheme part of it.”

“There will certainly be guidelines that you want to fit guys into, but more than anything, what do you have and how to feature guys will drive a little bit of how you can play. That’s to me the top of the pile,” Quinn told PFF. “Scheme-wise everybody has enough defensive flexibility to last for a while. It’s about how to put guys in the best spots and also having guys who can play significant roles of doing certain things really, really well. So that’s what I’m looking forward to, getting a chance to visit and see these players (on film) and find out all the unique stuff they have.”

Scheme aside, there’s a certain way he wants a unit to play: “the physicality, the speed, the relentless effort.”

“Those are things that you always want everybody to see us when we’re playing,” he said. “So that’s A, No. 1, top of the pile for sure, creating that identity that when everybody sees us play, you know exactly what you’re going to get.”

Cowboys’ Quinn looks to establish ‘significant roles’ for defenders who have ‘unique stuff’ to their games - Matthew Lenix, Cowboys Wire

Dan Quinn’s predecessor in Dallas talked a lot about tailoring the scheme to fit his players’ strengths, but it didn’t seem to manifest itself on the field. Quinn is now speaking in similar tones, but admits he still has to watch film to get an idea of which roles his new defenders might fit in his scheme.

It became apparent very early in the season that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s hybrid scheme wasn’t the answer in Dallas. So, after parting ways with Nolan, the Cowboys brought Dan Quinn on board to run the defense for the foreseeable future. Last week on the PFF NFL Podcast, Quinn talked about getting into the film room and seeing what he has to work with personnel-wise.

“I think you don’t really have a real sense when you’re going somewhere (new) of what a team has, and that’s kind of what my challenge is now, to make sure I get a chance to watch everybody on tape, get a chance to see what their strengths are and see if we can put guys in spots to know how to feature them,” Quinn said, via the team’s website.

Quinn will see strengths on the defensive line and in the secondary. DeMarcus Lawrence had his fourth-consecutive season of double-digit tackles for loss and tied a career-high with four forced fumbles. Randy Gregory missed the first six games of the season but still managed to register 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles (all in Week 16 vs the Philadelphia Eagles). Rookie Neville Gallimore had some struggles but was one of the highest-graded interior defensive linemen in Week 9 due to his performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and closed out the season with 16 tackles and a half-sack in the final five games.

Cowboys 2021 NFL Schedule Just Got ‘Super’ Tough - Mike Fisher, Cowboy Maven

The Cowboys don’t know when they’ll be playing all of their games next year, but they do know who and where. And that skeleton of a schedule suddenly looks a bit more difficult this week, since two of their opponents will be reigning conference champions.

We still don’t know everything about the schedule; indeed, with the new 17th game, in addition to not knowing dates and such yet, we don’t know where that Patriots vs. Dallas game will be played.

But we know the Cowboys will be challenged by two franchises that figure to be riding high well into the 2021 calendar year following Super Bowl LV on Sunday, Feb. 7. Dallas, you see, will have to tackle the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the defending NFC champs, and the Kansas City Chiefs, who will be the defending AFC champs.

Oh, one more thing: The meeting with the Bucs will be in Tampa, and the meeting with the Chiefs will be in Kansas City.

Dak Prescott’s Cowboys future remains uncertain. And it’s entirely Dallas’ fault - Bob Sturm, The Athletic

The Cowboys’ offseason is likely to involve a lot of change, but all of the attention will focus squarely on Dak Prescott. After playing the last year on the franchise tag - while also demonstrating in the worst way just how valuable he is to this team - Prescott has put the Cowboys in a very tough situation.

So, what is the plan? Trade a first-rounder as well as a second for Matthew Stafford and prepare him a new contract, too? Draft a new guy and hope he can play, even though at No. 10 you might get the fifth-best QB in this draft? Keep Andy Dalton? Call Houston?

Which is why we can call this a botching. When you could have paid $100 million to secure a quarterback’s future and instead you now have the choice of paying him $50 million more or watching him play for a rival, well, the smartest businessmen in North Texas have royally screwed this up.

Even the solutions look bad. Paying him more than every QB short of Mahomes is not terribly wise because it would be very difficult to say that he is that good. Paying him more will not make him a better QB; just a more expensive one. And if the cap goes down, so does Dallas’ ability to add to a roster that has many holes. Franchising him again is a horrible idea. So is thinking Dalton or Cam Newton or Jacoby Brissett or Ryan Fitzpatrick or Mitchell Trubisky could anchor a good plan. Same goes for using draft capital that you wanted to use to remodel your defense in some bold strike to either move up in this draft or to send it all away for one of those veteran QBs.

What’s Next For QB: What’s The 2021 Backup Plan? - David Helman, DallasCowboys.com

The Cowboys made an aggressive move last year to bring in veteran Andy Dalton as Dak Prescott’s backup, and it unfortunately proved impactful. But with Dalton about to hit the open market, what’s the Cowboys’ plan for their backup quarterback spot?

Dalton handled himself well in Prescott’s absence, but was it enough to earn a crack at a starting job? Perhaps. At the very least, it feels fair to say he outplayed his $3 million contract in Dallas.

The NFL salary cap isn’t going to grow this year, thanks to the onset of COVID-19. Combine that fact with the cost of paying Prescott, and the Cowboys could find themselves hard up against the cap.

Can they afford to bring Dalton back, or will another team be able to offer a better opportunity – not to mention more money? Could the Cowboys take a chance on someone like Garrett Gilbert, who handled himself well in his lone start against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season?

It’s hard to say this early in the offseason. But it won’t be a surprise if Dalton is a bit more expensive than he was last year. And if that’s the case, the Cowboys may have to make due with a much less experienced backup in 2021.

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