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Cowboys news: The defensive battles that are anticipated as camp gets closer

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What is the Most-Anticipated Battle on Cowboys Defense for 2021 Camp? - Jess Haynie, Inside the Star

The secondary will surely have some major battles going on, but elsewhere on defense will too.

Cornerback is another spot full of question marks. While Trevon Diggs feels like a sure thing for on starting job, how will the rest shake out between Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, rookies Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright, and several other returning contenders? It’s hard to even call an early favorite right now; anything feels possible between Brown, Joseph, and Lewis to claim the CB2 and CB3 roles.

Defensive end and safety both have projected starting duos but unpredictability among the backups. We expect to see DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Damontae Kazee, and Donovan Wilson all on the 1st-team defense but who files in behind them is hard to predict. Dallas has assembled many options for 2021 between their carryovers from last year and new faces like Tarell Basham and Chauncey Golston at DE or Jayron Kearse and Israel Mukuamu at safety.

Again, lots to watch at all of these positions. But when it comes to the absolute hottest spot for this year’s camp and preseason, I don’t think you can pick anywhere but linebacker.

Camp Battle: Rookie ‘Plug’ vs. ‘Urban Cowboy’ - Mike Fisher, Sports Illustrated

The defensive line should also be interesting to watch at camp.

“I do a good job being stout up front, taking on double teams and doing the dirty work to allow those guys to run free,” Urban said, via the team’s website.“That’s part of the reason I came here. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to continue to do that and help elevate this defense and allow the athletes to be athletes.”

“The athletes,” of course, are the guys who aren’t 6-8 (like Urban) and who aren’t 350 pounds (like Bohanna). They play inside, maybe even at nose tackle. They occupy blockers. They wrestle. They eat up space.

“It’s for sure playing the run, being physical, being a plug in the middle, and letting the guys behind me run free and make plays,” the Kentucky rookie Bohanna said when asked what the strongest part of his game is. “But also, I can add to my athleticism and make plays myself when need be,” he continued.

The Cowboys last year allowed 100 yards or more rushing 14 times in 16 games. Is Urban a magical solution? Is Bohanna?

Stephon Gilmore Trade to Cowboys? Costs In Rumored Patriots Deal - Cowboys Staff, Sports Illustrated

Would this be a trade worth making?

The Patriots and Gilmore know they can intensify contract talks sometime in the next few weeks. And I’m told that Gilmore has largely not expected to be traded throughout this process because he knows the Patriots have made moves with Gilmore in mind,” Fowler said, via Bleacher Report. “They haven’t gotten a cornerback to replace him. And as one source told me, ‘Do the Patriots really want to go into Week 4 against Tom Brady without their top cornerback?’ And so things are slow right now, but I expect those sides to ramp up negotiations sometime before training camp.”

For the Cowboys, they were rumored to have had a discussion about a draft-day trade down with the Patriots for a deal centered around Gilmore. Such a trade never came to fruition, and the Cowboys ended up with Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons after their coveted cornerbacks, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, were selected before they got on the clock.

Dallas still very much has a need at the position as they head into training camp with second-year corner Trevon Diggs starting on one side, while the other side will feature a competition between Anthony Brown and rookies Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright.

3 Dallas Cowboys candidates to switch positions if needed - Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat

Emphasis on “if needed.”

Jourdan Lewis, CB to S

As the Cowboys continue to underinvest in their safety position, fans continue to try to find solutions to fix the position’s issues. One idea that has been floated for years is shifting veteran slot corner Jourdan Lewis to safety.

Dallas has been no stranger to shifting corners to safety. They did it last season with fourth-round cornerback Reggie Robinson II (before moving him back to corner this year). And just this offseason, the team’s 2021 sixth-rounder, South Carolina cornerback Israel Mukuamu, was immediately shifted to safety following his selection.

Lewis has demonstrated the ball-hawking ability to be a solid free safety candidate as well as the willingness to be a serviceable tackler despite his 5-foot-10 frame. He’s coming off his fourth season in the NFL where he posted a career-high 59 total tackles and 7.0 tackles for loss. Lewis has also racked up an incredible 6.0 sacks over the last two seasons.

Dallas Cowboys: 3 Veterans Cowboys Nation is sleeping on - Reid Hanson, Sport DFW

The “Urban Cowboy” kicks things off on this list:

Brent Urban, DT/DE

Brent Urban is a player we highlighted right when the Dallas Cowboys signed him back in March, and again this past week. The 30-year-old defensive lineman comes to Dallas from Chicago. He’s coming off his best season as a pro and should instantly become the Cowboys top run-stuffer this season.

The 6-7 300+ lineman is not your typical “trashcan full of dirt” at DT and actually figures to take a good amount of snaps outside as a 2-gapping defensive end. He’s played in odd man fronts throughout his career and figures to play end in his share of them this year in Dan Quinn’s base 3-man front.

His ability to 2-gap will open up opportunities for guys like DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Micah Parsons. Rated as the 3rd best interior run-stopper by Pro Football Focus, Urban will serve as the anchor to the unit in Dallas and provide veteran leadership to developing 1-tech, Quinton Bohanna.

Urban isn’t going to play on many passing downs and he’s not going to fill the stat sheet. But the veteran gives much-needed stability to the line, and will open up a ton of opportunities for the linebackers behind him.

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