With key returnees, Cowboys looking for ‘second-year jump’ on defense under Dan Quinn - Todd Archer, ESPN
The Cowboys were fortunate enough to have Dan Quinn back, and they are looking make a leap in year two.
The Cowboys also kept safety Jayron Kearse, the team’s leading tackler; defensive end Dorance Armstrong, who had one fewer sack (5.0) than Gregory last season; linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who played his best football at the end of last season; defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, who started 14 games; and safety Malik Hooker, a favorite of owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
“I feel like we can build on the foundation we made last year,” Lawrence said.
The lone outside-the-building signing on defense in free agency so far is defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., whose career-high in sacks is 11.5 with the Los Angeles Rams in 2019. Quinn coached Fowler in 2012 with the Florida Gators and briefly with the Atlanta Falcons in 2020, so the Cowboys are hoping a reunion will raise his sack numbers — although he had just 7.5 over the past two seasons in Atlanta.
“Defense definitely gives you that opportunity in playoff football to regulate and keep the game always within reach to win the game,” McCarthy said earlier in the week. “A great defense wins games for you. I know I’m an offensive-categorized coach, but frankly, the defense is so, so important. No doubt about it.
“I think our goal, we hit that last year of making a huge step defensively. I think with signing these veterans back, now we have an experienced defense along with those young guys who will be in Year 2. So I’m looking for that second-year jump by the young guys, the experienced guys, and I think we can take another step defensively.”
Mike McCarthy says Cowboys won’t move Micah Parsons to DE: ‘We want him moving around’ - Kevin Patra, NFL.com
The Cowboys are making their decision to play Micah Parsons as they did last year.
Parsons entered the NFL as an off-ball linebacker, and he shined in that role early in the season. Then the Cowboys lined him up at defensive end when Demarcus Lawrence broke his foot and Gregory was out with COVID-19. Parsons shined as an edge rusher, but when Dallas got healthier, the Cowboys moved him to a rover who lined up at linebacker and, at times, edge rusher.
McCarthy believes it’s that versatility that makes Parsons dangerous.
“It would be very easy to just line him up at end and play him there every down, but the fact of the matter is he had, what, 13 sacks,” the Cowboys coach said. “Seven came from the linebacker position, six from the defensive end position.”
As a rookie, Parsons netted 13 sacks and 84 total tackles while being named a first-team All-Pro, a Pro Bowler and the top defensive rookie.
Pass rusher is the premier defensive position, a spot that can disrupt the game more than any other. But McCarthy believes that keeping Parsons as a linebacker and moving him to and fro when the situation dictates makes life more difficult on opponents trying to identify the game-wrecker.
“I know as an offensive guy,” he noted, “you’re helping me if you can line him up at one position every time.”
The Cowboys could look to add to the roster by trading for busts in hopes of fixing them.
Bust No. 1: K’Lavon Chaisson
Picked: Round 1, Pick 20 – 2020 NFL Draft
This was the guy the Dallas Cowboys were supposed to draft. In 2020, the Dallas Cowboys positioned themselves to draft a defensive end early in the draft. And they had their eyes set on LSU DE, K’Lavon Chaisson.
The ultra athletic 20-year-old didn’t have a very accomplished resume, but he was bursting with potential and the Cowboys were completely bought into the hype. The only thing that could stop Dallas from taking him at Pick 17 was if some gift from God fell into their laps – cue, CeeDee Lamb.
In case you haven’t been following K’Lavon Chaisson’s career, things haven’t gone well for the young EDGE in Jacksonville. Over the past two seasons he’s only started 11 games, tallied 50 tackles, two sacks, and 20 pressures. Not what anyone was expecting from one of the most athletic first round prospects in the draft.
He’ll be cheap, he’s still only 22-years-old, and he still has all of that raw talent that can be developed.
From last year to now, the Cowboys wide receiver room looks a lot different.
Add super-sub Cedrick Wilson’s free-agent departure to the Dolphins, and the Cowboys’ 2022 receiver group has plenty to replace.
“Obviously you look at the volume of the production of both Amari and Cedrick, that’s very real,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “But with that, it’s about the opportunities that will present to the other players.
“It’s not going to be a one-for-one type of situation. In my experiences, it’s never been. And I think you can get into a limited mindset if you think that you have to think that this guy’s going to replace Amari and this guy’s going to replace Cedrick, because that’s not the case. That won’t be the approach.”
Clearly, that means the Cowboys will take an all-hands-on-deck approach, relying on multiple players to make up the difference. The club also made a change at wide receivers coach, hiring longtime NFL assistant Robert Prince to fill the spot vacated by Adam Henry, who had an expiring contract.
CeeDee Lamb, fresh off his first career Pro Bowl, is the expected new No. 1 receiver. Michael Gallup moves up the depth chart, too, though it’s possible he might not be quite ready for Week 1 coming off February knee surgery. Tight end Dalton Schultz, signed to the one-year, $10.9 million franchise tag, tied with Cooper for the team lead in touchdown catches last year (8).
Perhaps backup running back Tony Pollard can become a larger part of the passing game in certain situations. Perhaps veteran receiver James Washington, signed to a one-year deal in free agency, can earn a larger role than he had in four seasons with the Steelers. Backup receiver/core special teams contributor Noah Brown was re-signed before the start of free agency, and 2021 fifth-round pick Simi Fehoko will compete again for a spot after playing just seven offensive snaps last year.
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