Pre-draft position preview: Antwaun Woods is dependable, but DT is far from Cowboys’ strength - David Moore, DMN
The Cowboys know they have work still to do at defensive tackle.
It’s hard to find much.
Youth? The Cowboys took Neville Gallimore in the third round last season and Trysten Hill in the second round the year before. There have been flashes of promise from both — flashes — but nothing sustained. If Hill builds on what he showed early last season before injury ended his season that’s a good sign.
Antwaun Woods is dependable.
Free agent signing Brent Urban does a good job of holding his own at the point of attack and should hope the team’s run defense.
The organization has been unwilling to invest any draft or significant free agent capital in the one-technique (nose tackle) tackle which is key to controlling the run.
It shows. Serviceable players at this position are fine if the scheme is sound and the players behind them are disciplined, but that wasn’t the case last season.
The three-technique (more of a pass rushing) defensive tackle has also been lacking. The interior push provided by this position is arguably the key to a consistent and effective pass rush overall. This remains a glaring deficiency in the Cowboys defense.
Dan Quinn may want to lure his ex-player Richard Sherman into the fold.
Dallas Cowboys: Richard Sherman can thrive in Dan Quinn’s Cover 3 base
There are a lot of reasons a place like Dallas could be appealing for an aging star like Sherman. One, every player wants to play for the Cowboys at some point, right? They are “America’s Team” after all. Two, there is no state income tax in Dallas, which could go a long way towards a player who gets taxed out the wazoo playing in his native California. And three, the team needs him.
Dallas has not won a road playoff game since Sherman was in grade school. The Cowboys need all the help they can get defensively. By knowing exactly what Quinn wants to run in this defensive scheme, Sherman can be somewhat of an on-field coach for the Cowboys. This could go a long way towards bringing out the absolute best out of emerging star defensive back Trevon Diggs.
Overall, there should be a handful of suitors wanting to sign Sherman as he is about to enter his age-33 season out of Stanford. Another team to keep an eye on is the New York Jets who could use a leader of Sherman’s caliber to help give his former coordinator in first-year head coach Robert Saleh the best chance at success. For now, Dallas feels like a serious candidate for him.
Can we interest anybody in a linebacker at #10?
And there just so happens to be those thinking that the absolute best defensive player in this draft is not a corner, not a defensive end, not a tackle or safety but …
Yep, a linebacker.
That being Micah Parsons of Penn State.
This guy is an absolute baller. Size, speed and instincts the likes of Lee. Appears to play with an edge, something this defense sorely needs more of.
Don’t just take my word for it on Parsons. Here is what former NFL general manager Charley Casserly has to say about the 6-3, 246-pound versatile backer who ran a 4.39 at Penn State’s Pro Day:
“No. 1 thing, he finds the football. Instincts just jump off the tape.” In fact, in Casserly’s mock draft, he had Parsons going to the Lions at No. 7, with this analysis: “The Lions are in desperate need of talent throughout the roster. They take the best defensive player in the draft here – if they don’t trade back.”
And as for Cowboys former head personnel guy Gil Brandt, he says of Parsons: “Currently in line to be the first linebacker drafted. Parsons should play many years at a high level.”
Not only all that, but he is versatile. Could play middle. Could play weak. Likely a three-down guy. Which means take this guy and play Vander Esch where you want. Smith could play the strongside, and become a move-around pass rusher. Gotta love chess pieces.
Free agency is far from finished for the Cowboys.
Joe Looney, C/G
Despite starting 16-games at center for America’s Team in 2018, Joe Looney is still available as a free agent and could easily be re-signed in Dallas. The team certainly has the need with second-year center Tyler Biadasz the favorite to land the starting role in 2021. Biadasz started just four games as a rookie.
Considering the massive amount of injuries the offensive line in Dallas suffered through last year, keeping a versatile interior piece like the 30-year old Looney would certainly make sense. Especially when you take into account he started a whopping 12 games for the Cowboys just last season.
The Cowboys could be looking to force a youth movement in Dallas, turning to younger linemen like Adam Redmond and Connor McGovern to fill that vacancy. Yet the luxury of having a veteran presence with the amount of experience that has Looney as a backup is hard to ignore.
Pitts could vault the ‘Boys to outer space according to one NFL exec.
The NFL Draft is coming and so, maybe, is a major philosophical decision for the Dallas Cowboys: Draft for need (that is, defense) or draft the B.A.A. (best available “athlete’’)?
“I spoke to a long-time executive,’’ ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports, “who said that (Kyle) Pitts would completely take their offense to a new stratosphere. He is that kind of talent. So, if Jerry Jones wants to go that route, he’s always a wild card on draft day. But in recent years, the Cowboys have been a little more sensible, so they could get a top cornerback staying where they are.”
But will Pitts even be there.
Specific to the Cowboys’ fascination with Pitts - a fascination that is completely understandable and surely shared by 31 other teams - we say there is a high unlikelihood that the Cowboys will get Pitts with the 10th pick in the first round; the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals, at Nos. 4 and 5 respectively, probably won’t let him slide.
That leads to another philosophical question, about paying the price for such a trade-up (a first-, a second- and a fourth-round pick?) versus collecting all the darts possible and simply standing pat by using those picks.
Could trades be a constant in the draft?
The priorities in free agency seem to have changed a bit from the years of the Jason Garrett, which means at some point this team is going to look more well-rounded than ever. So long of the days where coaches preached versatility and picked players who weren’t, the McCarthy era of the Dallas Cowboys has undergone quite the paradigm shift.
It has been a moment since the last mock draft I scribed, but then Cowboys VP Stephen Jones said the goal was to fill all holes in free agency in order to attack the draft with the best player available mentality. They’ve held true to their word for the most part even if the signings haven’t gone for big money.
The Cowboys will eleven picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. The expectation is at least four quarterbacks will be selected before pick 10 meaning someone the Cowboys have highly regarded will still be on their board. With the sheer chaos of the draft to follow, the Cowboys could very easily have the best players available in every round.
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