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Cowboys news: Defense is a big concern for the 2024 season

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Spagnola: This Should Be Their Biggest Concern - Mickey Spagnola, DallasCowboys.com

As good as they can be at times, there are some major concerns.

The Cowboys gave up a total of 199 points of their 18-game total of 363 in those six losses, yielding an average of 33.1 points a game. Now granted, the defense is only responsible for 41 points in the playoff loss to the Packers, but even in the one game the Cowboys allowed the losing low of 22 points, the defense let the Dolphins drive 64 yards in 12 plays to kick the game-winning, walk-off 29-yard field goal as time expired.

Otherwise, they would have beaten the Dolphins, 20-19, a rare oddity since then beating Detroit, 20-19, meant winning two games by that identical score for the first time in one season and only the third and fourth times in franchise history. The only other 20-19 victories registered were during the 2011 season when beating Miami on Thanksgiving and in 2012 when winning at Cincinnati.

When it came to rushing yards in those six losses, why, they only held Miami to less than 100 yards (91), thus giving up an average of 166.8 rushing yards in those six losses. And the Cowboys were able to beat Detroit by only a point – the Lions deciding against kicking the extra point that most assuredly would have sent the game into overtime – while giving up 125 rushing yards.

Again, this is what’s been so deceiving about this third consecutive 12-5 season under McCarthy, and now having gone 1-3 in the playoffs these past three seasons. The Cowboys were just 4-5 against teams finishing with winning records, beating the Rams (10-7), Eagles (11-6) the second time around, Seahawks (9-8), yet having to score 41 points to win by six, and Lions (12-5).

13 final thoughts on Cowboys' 2023 season - Ben Grimaldi, Cowboys Wire

There was plenty of good, but also a fair share of bad.

McCarthy still struggled with game management

As good of a job as McCarthy did with turning around the offense, he was equally as bad in game management situations, especially late in contests. McCarthy gave some opposing teams life late that had no business being in that position.

Against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 13, McCarthy’s team held a three-point lead and were in easy field goal range facing a 3rd-and-3 with just 1:46 remaining. The Seahawks had no timeouts left and the Cowboys could’ve bled the clock down to about a minute or run out the clock if they ran for the first down. Instead, McCarthy called for a pass that wasn’t completed and the clock stopped, giving the Seahawks an extra 40 seconds to mount a comeback that luckily didn’t succeed due to a defensive stand.

Four weeks later, there was McCarthy doing the same thing against the Detroit Lions. The Cowboys could’ve used up clock and forced the Lions to burn their timeouts under the two-minute warning, except McCarthy called for a pass on second down. The pass fell incomplete, saved the Lions 40 seconds and allowed their comeback to have a better chance.

Seahawks Close to 'Conclusion' on Dan Quinn Decision? - Adam Schultz, All Seahawks

Quinn could be returning to his old stomping grounds real soon.

The Seattle Seahawks’ process of trying to find Pete Carroll’s replacement is still ongoing. After 14 years in the job, a change was needed, but there hasn’t been swift turnaround.

Amid all the speculation, one name that has been constantly linked with the Seahawks is Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. While he feels like the surefire hire due to his previous experience with the franchise, nothing has materialized yet.

But ESPN analyst Field Yates still has a feeling that Quinn will eventually wind up in Seattle.

“It felt like just within hours of that announcement dropping, it was already ‘Dan Quinn to Seattle’ had generated a lot of steam,” Yates said via Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob. “And it’s logical in the sense that, of course, Dan knows pretty much everybody that’s been in the building for quite some time. He’s been a head coach himself so you kind of have an idea of what he can bring to the table, he’s a defensive-minded man, which of course is important for a team that I think right now is in really good shape offensively and just needs to really, really figure it out on defense. My general sense is that we’re still heading towards the Dan Quinn conclusion.”

Most improved player for all 32 NFL teams after the 2023 regular season - Zoltan Buday, PFF

Bland the most improved Cowboys according to PFF.

DALLAS COWBOYS: CB DARON BLAND

2022 PFF grade: 71.9

2023 PFF grade: 90.4

Bland improved astronomically compared to his 2022 rookie campaign, even becoming a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He set an NFL record with five pick-sixes and also earned the second-highest PFF overall grade among cornerbacks.

5 Players The Cowboys Should Move On From In 2024 - Mark Heaney, Inside the Star

Cowboys will have to make some tough decisions.

Defensive Back Jayron Kearse was a gem of a find by the Cowboys in 2021 after mediocre stints with the Lions and Vikings.

Kearse put up 101 tackles and two interceptions for Dallas in his first year and he earned a 2-year $10M extension after that season.

In the two years since however, Kearse has decreased in tackles, dropping to 77 in 2022 and 72 in 2023. His games started totals also dropped in both of those years.

The veteran safety will turn 30 before the start of next year, and it is not hard to see that on tape. His explosiveness and sideline-to-sideline ability have diminished.

As we talked about with Williams, Kearse himself also has a penalty problem.

He was second in penalties for Cowboys defenders with six; two more penalties were declined. Four of those eight were 15-yard personal fouls.

That is simply inexcusable, especially from a veteran in the last year of his contract.

Dallas is going to start to need replacements for their aging “big three” safeties in Hooker, Wilson, and Kearse, and the latter is going to be the first out the door.

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