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Cowboys news: Three position battles to monitor in Dan Quinn’s new scheme

Plus, more news on America’s Team.

NFL: DEC 13 Cowboys at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

3 position battles to monitor under new Cowboys DC Dan Quinn’s 3-4 defensive scheme - John Owning, Dallas Morning News

With all the new faces on the defensive side of the ball, there’s going to be plenty of position battles.

Parsons is a rookie, but the Cowboys didn’t select him 12th overall to ride the bench. From Day 1, Parsons will be one of the two or three most athletic linebackers in the NFL, and he leverages that athleticism to make plays all over the field. He’s the least experienced of the bunch but also definitely possesses the most raw-talent, as well. I’m also confident that Quinn will develop a large role for Parsons regardless of if he wins one of the starting gigs or not.

Cox, on the other hand, probably won’t have much of an opportunity to vie for a starting gig, but don’t be surprised if he pushes for a role in some of Dallas’ sub packages, as his coverage ability definitely surpasses that of Smith, Vander Esch and Parsons.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the competition plays out over the course of OTAs, minicamps and training camp. If I had to wager, I’d say that in Dallas’ Week 1 base 3-4 defense, the MIKE (middle) LB will be Parsons, the WILL (weakside) LB will be Vander Esch, and the SAM (strongside) LB will be Jaylon Smith (with Randy Gregory as the “fourth” LB in the LEO role). However, in nickel (five DBs, two LBs, four DL), I believe the two LBs will be Parsons and Neal, with Cox and Vander Esch spelling Parsons when Dallas wants to use him in a pass-rushing role.

Cowboys roundtable: Don’t bet on a Mike McCarthy firing in 2021, plus what to watch for as OTAs continue - Staff, Dallas Morning News

Answering some questions about what things may look like for the Cowboys in 2021.

What position group might the Cowboys still upgrade before the season kicks off in September in Tampa?

Moore: Stop me if you’ve heard this, but as Stephen Jones says, player acquisition is a 365-day-a-year job. There are still areas, especially on the defensive side of the ball, that can be improved. But if a veteran backup quarterback with a proven track record becomes available for the right price, the Cowboys will be interested. The problem: They won’t be alone.

Watkins: Quarterback is a position that needs serious upgrades. Signing Andy Dalton last year was a wonderful thing after seeing Dak Prescott go down. What now? I have little confidence in Garrett Gilbert, Cooper Rush and Gucci [Ben] DiNucci to backup Prescott. McCarthy said DiNucci took some steps forward; we hope so, especially after what we saw in 2020. Getting a veteran quarterback or a younger quarterback with better skills than what’s currently on the roster is a must. The Cowboys need to cough up some money to sign a vet and I believe that’s the biggest hang up right now.

Playing Time Opportunity For Jayron Kearse? - David Helman, DallasCowboys.com

Could the free-agent signee see some real playing time?

To this early point in the offseason, the opportunity is clear to see. As anticipated, Neal is a big part of the linebacker rotation. And back at the safety spot, Kearse and Kazee are seeing a large percentage of reps, along with third-year draft pick Donovan Wilson. Mainly used on special teams and in specific sub-packages during his stints with the Vikings and Lions, it's not hard to imagine Kearse carving out a role for himself. At 6'3, 215 pounds, he clearly has the frame defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is looking for in a defensive back. And it sounds like the Cowboys plan to call on his past experiences in this new role.

"Really some of the same things I've done in Minnesota, playing the nickel position and when we get into bigger personnels, having a role to play the dime position where I'm covering tight ends and things like that," Kearse said. "For me, that was something I was familiar with and something I excelled in, in that particular role."

Figuring the whole thing out is a mystery that's going to take time. The Cowboys have been purposefully vague about their plans in Quinn's first year, and these OTA practices are more about installation than anything. Kearse said the most important part of this period is building a baseline for communication with as many players as possible.

Cowboys' Position Battles to Watch Ahead of 2021 NFL Season - Alex Ballentine, BleacherReport.com

More on position battles coming into camp, this time looking at both sides of the ball.

Defensive Tackle. There was plenty of blame to go around for the Cowboys' failures on defense last season, but the group of defensive tackles was particularly maligned. As such, the competition for reps on the interior should be fairly open. The returning leaders in snaps last season are Neville Gallimore (37.5 percent) and Justin Hamilton (21.3 percent). Neither were great in those snaps.

Gallimore posted a PFF grade that ranked him 102nd of 126 qualifying interior defenders. Hamilton didn't have enough snaps to qualify for ranking but his grade of 45.9 is scary bad. Gallimore is likely to get a shot at starting. As a third-round pick in 2020, this is the year he should be expected to be a contributor. Any negatives from his rookie season can't be counted too harshly.

Who plays alongside the Oklahoma product will be an interesting thing to track throughout the preseason. Brent Urban provides a veteran option. He has made stops with the Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans over his six seasons and has been a solid option on some good defenses in that time.

Blake Jarwin Excited for Return, "Happy" for the Success of Dalton Schultz - Matthew Lenix, Inside The Star

The tight end is looking to bounce back in a big way after missing nearly all of 2020 with an injury.

Although he had just 31 receptions for 365 yards and three touchdowns in 2019, the Cowboys signed Jarwin to a three-year, $24.25 million dollar extension last March, just before Witten departed to the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency. Once any player gets a bigger bank account it comes with higher expectations, which Jarwin had for himself heading into last season until it was derailed by his unfortunate knee injury.

“Obviously, my expectation for myself was pretty high, and then just to go down like that in the first half of the first game was pretty tough,” Jarwin during OTAs last week. Jarwin was in attendance last week once the Cowboys opened OTAs. He didn’t participate in any fieldwork, instead, he continued to rehab his injury in hopes to be ready for training camp at the end of next month. Although he’s progressing nicely as the new season approaches, Jarwin isn’t in any hurry to rush back onto the field, which is smart with an injury like an ACL tear.

“There’s really no reason, I guess, to rush into it,” Jarwin said. “Just make sure that I’m feeling good – and I feel good. I’ll just keep pushing along, and I anticipate, Day 1 of training camp, being ready to roll.”

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