The Dallas Cowboys defense is looking to rebound in a big way with the addition of Dan Quinn and the influx of new players on that side of the football. The fastest way that Quinn can achieve this is to make sure that his game plans against the Cowboys division rivals are rock solid. In doing so they will have an easier route to the tournament as head coach Mike McCarthy put in on the first episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks. They’ll have to create a few “Mojo Moments” if they want to get there.
So let’s take a look at the ways Quinn could exploit each team in an effort to gain the upper hand.
When you are facing the Giants, one of the main focuses for defenses has been trying to stop star running back Saquon Barkley. This season Barkley is returning from a torn ACL so the Giants will look to ease him back into the fold in an effort to protect him from another significant injury. That’s not to say he still won’t be the most dangerous player on the field. To prevent Barkley from beating you, Quinn’s main focus needs to be getting maximum penetration into the Giants backfield and make things harder for Barkley to find a rhythm.
If they are able to do that then the Giants become more one-dimensional. Quinn will be able to send his special blitz packages to harass and force quarterback Daniel Jones into getting the ball out of his hands quickly and taking away their best receiving deep threat in the newly signed Kenny Golladay. They just need to be able to penetrate the line of scrimmage and force Barkley to avoid early traffic. Then they can dictate how the game will go by forcing the Giants to become one-dimensional.
The Eagles have gone through a big change by trading last year's starting quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colt and giving the keys to the offense to second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts had his moments last season and won a few games for the Eagles, but overall he was still exploitable. He was also somewhat turnover-prone with four interceptions thrown and fumbling nine times and losing six.
Hurts is going to make a jump this season and should become a better quarterback but he will still be susceptible to new looks and formations. But in order to make sure the Cowboys have the ability to try and fool him with different looks, they have to be able to keep Hurts in the pocket. They can’t let him slip out and create on the move as he did last season. Quinn’s going to have to make sure that he’s able to keep Hurts in the pocket, something he should be used to since he had to deal with Cam Newton twice a year when he was in Carolina. Keep a spy on Hurts and make him uncomfortable from inside the pocket and the Cowboys could see him making more poor choices.
For the most part, a lot of the Washington offseason talk on the offensive side of the football has been about the addition of journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Wondering if he will be able to bring that Fitz-magic with him, or if he will revert back to the gunslinging turnover machine we’ve seen in the past. Lost in all of the chatter has been the dangerous dual-threat running back Antonio Gibson who took the league by storm last season and showed that this new Washington offense flows through him.
If the Cowboys are going to have any chance of shutting him down, Quinn may need to look a few years back and see what the Cowboys did against Alvin Kamara. Putting cornerback Jourdan Lewis on Kamara was the best defensive game plan I’ve seen the Cowboys execute in a long time and it’s one that they should be able to duplicate. Gibson isn’t on the same level as Kamara but he could turn into that type of player down the road, and Lewis might just be the key to stopping the Washington offense by taking away their best player and forcing Fitzpatrick to win games through the air.