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Cowboys news: Three things the Cowboys need this year to win the NFC East

All your Cowboys news on a holiday weekend.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys OTA Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

3 things that must happen for Cowboys to win the NFC East, including better luck with injuries - John Owning, DMN

The Cowboys need a few things to go right in 2021 to get back to the playoffs, including having, at least, a mediocre defense.

Luckily, given the talent the Cowboys have on offense, it’s going to be new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s job to get the defense to simply creep back toward mediocrity, which should be attainable. Now, the Cowboys aren’t exactly dripping with talent on the defensive side of the ball, but they do have enough talent to hover around average if they play up to their potential.

In my opinion, the Cowboys did a much better job this offseason finding defensive contributors than they did in 2020. Instead of grabbing past-their-prime veterans such as HaHa Clinton-Dix, Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy, the Cowboys signed players who aren’t past their prime and should fill more distinct roles, such as Damontae Kazee, Keanu Neal, Tarell Basham and Brent Urban. While none of them are game-changers, they do collectively improve the overall talent level on the Cowboys’ defense.

In addition, having Quinn as defensive coordinator should be a notable upgrade over Mike Nolan from a year ago. While Quinn is now a ways removed from his glory days leading the Legion of Boom, his defenses have routinely outperformed the money spent on defense in terms of DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average).

Outside of 2020, when Quinn’s season was cut short, the only season where Quinn’s defense finished lower in DVOA than they ranked in money spent on defense was 2018 — a season where Atlanta lost key contributors Deion Jones, Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal for lengthy stretches, which explains why Atlanta’s defense struggled more than it had previously during Quinn’s tenure.

If Quinn can continue to work his magic in Dallas, then the Cowboys will have a great shot at returning to their rightful place as the NFC East champions.

11) Who Will Be Backup QB Behind Dak? - Staff, The Mothership

Backing up Dak Prescott is still a big question.

11) Who Will Be No. 2 QB Behind Dak?

Nick Eatman: I’d like to think it’s Garrett Gilbert. I was one of the people intrigued enough by his Pittsburgh game to think he could be a viable No. 2. I’m not saying he played outstanding because his team still lost and he had a crucial mistake by throwing a red-zone interception that probably cost the Cowboys the game. But he was prepared, he was efficient and he moved the ball and that’s what you want from a backup. Right now, I would say Gilbert and DiNucci get most of the preseason reps so they can evaluate the position better. But they’ll keep an eye on the waiver wire and my hunch is someone with more experience will come along and the Cowboys will add them before the season begins.

Rob Phillips: Garrett Gilbert while glancing over his shoulder. The Cowboys paid Andy Dalton $3 million to be the No. 2 guy last year, but salary cap space is tighter this year and a guy with Dalton’s experience isn’t available as a backup option very often. The Cowboys have made no secret that they’ll stay on the lookout for competition behind Dak Prescott, so you could answer that the backup isn’t currently on the roster and you might be right by early September. Out of the current group, I’ll go with Gilbert, who has a history working with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore before Dallas and looked good in one start last season.

NFL fines Dallas Cowboys, Mike McCarthy $150,000 for practice violations - Stefan Stevenson & Clarence E. Hill Jr., Star-Telegram

We now know exactly why the Cowboys got fined for OTA practices.

The Dallas Cowboys and head coach Mike McCarthy were fined by the NFL on Thursday for organized team activities violations, according to a letter obtained by the Star-Telegram.

The Cowboys were fined $100,000 and McCarthy was fined $50,000 for live contact violations. The team declined to comment on the situation.

In the letter sent from the NFL to the Cowboys, the league details video of a May 27 practice that shows “the intensity and tempo of the club’s interior line play and pass coverage during 11-on-11 drills were at a level where players were clearly engaged in physical contests.”

The league further contends that “excessive contact between defensive backs and wide receivers” as well as between offensive and defensive linemen “resulted in players being taken to the ground,” according to the letter.

The letter reminds the Cowboys that when on-field physical contact between players escalates to an “impermissible level,” the head coach is obligated to intervene and stop the action. Coaches are also urged to remove “overly enthusiastic” players from the field for individual instruction. The OTA rules are part of the NFL Players Association agreement with the league.

Role Call: Tarell Basham’s Big Opportunity - David Helman, The Mothership

The new Cowboys free agent signing has a chance to be a part of the rotation on the edge.

Basham wound up being drafted 80th overall by the Indianapolis Colts, and it’s fair to say his stint there didn’t go as originally planned. He played just 16 games and was released in October of 2018, not even halfway through his second NFL season.

He immediately caught on with the New York Jets, where he enjoyed some success playing as a 3-4 rush linebacker. Basham was a regular member of the Jets’ rotation over the last two years, tallying 69 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

That success, combined with the front office’s familiarity with him from just a few years ago, made it entirely unsurprising when Basham signed one as one of the primary free agency additions of the 2021 offseason.

What’s Next: There should be plenty of opportunity in Dallas for Basham – both in 2021 and maybe beyond.

Looking over the depth chart, it seems like a given that DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory will be the primary pass rushers on this roster. Beyond that, though, it’s fair to say Basham is the most accomplished player in the group behind them. The only other veteran in that group is Dorance Armstrong, with three career starts and 2.5 career sacks. The trio of Ron’Dell Carter, Bradlee Anae and Chauncey Golston has little-to-no NFL experience.

It’s also interesting to think that Basham signed a two-year contract, whereas the Cowboys tend to sign their free agents to one-year deals. Gregory is entering a contract year, and it’s realistic that he could play his way out of the Cowboys’ price range. Signing Basham for multiple seasons could be viewed as a cost-effective way for the Cowboys to cover themselves in the bigger picture.

Dallas Cowboys to be featured in ‘Hard Knocks’ on HBO this summer - Michael Gehlken, DMN

And just a reminder in case you missed the news yesterday, the Cowboys will be on Hard Knocks.

The Cowboys will be featured on the “Hard Knocks” documentary series this summer for the third time in the program’s 16 seasons.

HBO and NFL Films announced Friday that five hourlong episodes, beginning Aug. 10 at 9 p.m. CT, will profile the Cowboys during training camp and the preseason. The team’s itinerary includes camp in Oxnard, Calif., an exhibition against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio, a joint practice with the Los Angeles Rams on Aug. 7, and three more preseason games versus the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans and .Jacksonville Jaguars

Filming will begin soon.

The team plans to travel to Oxnard on July 20.

The five episodes will air on subsequent Tuesdays, being televised on HBO and streamed on HBO Max. The finale will air on Sept. 7, creating a natural runway for the NFL’s 2021 season. On Sept. 9, the Cowboys play in the league’s first regular-season of the year when facing the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida.

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