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Cowboys news: Dallas expected to interview at least four candidates for defensive coordinator

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Candidates expected to interview for DC next week - Nick Harris,

The Cowboys look to have four interviews lined up.

The Dallas Cowboys are expected to interview a handful of candidates for the team’s vacant defensive coordinator position early next week, as the team looks to solidify a replacement for Dan Quinn after he took the head coaching job for the Washington Commanders.

In-house candidates are expected to include passing game coordinator/secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr. and defensive line coach Aden Durde. Outside candidates include Mike Zimmer and Ron Rivera, according to multiple reports.

Whitt, an NFL defensive coach since 2007, has been a part of coaching staffs with the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns and has been with the Dallas Cowboys since 2021.

His influence on the secondary has been a big contributing factor to Dallas being a consistent league-leader in takeaways with Trevon Diggs (2021) and DaRon Bland (2023) both leading the NFL in interceptions during his time.

Durde’s coaching career saw him start in his home country of Great Britain as the defensive coordinator for the London Warriors of the BAFA National League for six seasons where he won multiple national titles. His career in the NFL began with Dan Quinn with the Atlanta Falcons in 2018 as a defensive quality control coach before being elevated to outside linebackers coach in 2020. He has served with the Cowboys since 2021.

Cowboys believe Dan Quinn left strong foundation, aren’t anticipating defensive overhaul - Michael Gehlken, DMN

The Cowboys will interview their internal candidates on Monday and external candidates on Tuesday.

Likely none will be asked to reinvent the wheel.

The person hired will have substantial work to fine-tune the unit, but a complete overhaul is not anticipated.

In its final appearance last season, the Dallas defense struggled in several facets during a first-round playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. That included against the run. Shoring up the area is among the offseason points of emphasis, as the Cowboys work to create more opportunities for a Micah Parsons-led pass rush.

That said, the team believes Dan Quinn left a strong foundation off which to build.

Ties to Cowboys, history with Mike McCarthy make Mike Zimmer intriguing candidate for DC - David Moore, DMN

Moore calls Zimmer "the most intriguing of the candidates."

Zimmer’s fiery, confrontational approach is more tough love than collaborative. It works because he forges a relationship with all in his path and is the same with coaches as he is with players.

Jerry and Stephen Jones love and respect Zimmer. The three have remained close since Zimmer left to follow his own path.

McCarthy and Zimmer adhere to many of the same coaching principles but are temperamentally different. Both demand accountability, but Zimmer does it with more of an edge. That might not be a bad thing for a head coach entering the final year of his contract.

And the biggest selling point? Zimmer knows how to deploy a defense and motivate. He’s good at what he does.

All of this makes Zimmer the most intriguing of the candidates. The best? That’s what McCarthy, along with Jerry and Stephen Jones, must determine in the coming days. But he’s a strong candidate.

Very strong.

Eagles reportedly have a new quarterbacks coach - Brandon Lee Gowton, Bleeding Green Nation

Former Cowboys QB coach Doug Nussmeier (2020-2022) joins former Cowboys OC Kellen Moore (2019-2022) in Philly as the Eagles hope the two can coach up Jalen Hurts somewhere close to Dak Prescott's level. Meanwhile, Eagles fans find their brains tied up in a pretzel trying to rationalize having two of Prescott’s former coaches working with Hurts.

The owner reaching out to a potential coaching hire is very Dallas. So much for the head coach picking his own DC.

Cowboys Coach Interviews with Mike Zimmer, Ron Rivera Set, Jerry Jones 'Very Involved' - Mike Fisher, FanNation

Cowboys let McCarthy pick his guy once but are not looking to repeat that.

Is this McCarthy's call alone? It is not. He was granted that luxury when he first came here four years ago. He hired close pal Mike Nolan. That failed.

A year later, Jerry and Stephen Jones, along with personnel boss Will McClay, joined McCarthy in the interview process ... and together hit a home run with Quinn - despite none of them having had a previous relationship with him.

Report: Mike Zimmer officially interviewing to become Cowboys DC - Todd Brock, Cowboys Wire

The Cowboys could turn to a familiar face to lead their defense once again.

What was once an intriguing notion and then a rumored possibility has taken a very real step. The Cowboys are officially interviewing Mike Zimmer for their open defensive coordinator job.

The news comes from NFL insider Adam Schefter, though many have suspected for a while that the 67-year-old could be a candidate for the role that was vacated by Dan Quinn. On Saturday, Quinn signed his contract to become the next head coach of the Washington Commanders.

Zimmer last held the Cowboys’ DC role in 2006 before moving on to serve as defensive coordinator in Atlanta and Cincinnati. He then served as head coach in Minnesota until the conclusion of the 2021 season.

Known as a fiery coach who tends to develop strong and lasting relationships with his players, Zimmer spent the 2022 season as an analyst and consultant for one of his former players, Cowboys legend Deion Sanders, as head coach of Jackson State.

Reviewing the Cowboys Interior Defensive Line: What We Learned - Mario Herrera Jr., Inside the Star.

Breaking down what happened inside the Cowboys defensive line.

Under Dan Quinn, the Cowboys shuffled around their defensive line quite often. Several players were able to move from outside to inside or vice versa, but today we will focus on the players who primarily played defensive tackle.

Osa Odighizuwa

PFF Overall (NFL Rank): 81.4 (15th)

PFF Rush Defense (NFL Rank): 70.2 (19th)

PFF Pass Rush (NFL Rank): 80.0 (13th)

By PFF standards, DT Osa Odighizuwa is the only Cowboys interior defensive lineman to crack the top 20 in any of the three graded metrics. He finished the season with 46 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 13 QB hits, and 3.0 sacks.

What stood out the most was Osa’s 25 stops at or behind the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys’ defense wasn’t able to stop the run very effectively, but Osa was a big part of their success when they could.

Grade: B

Osa is entering a contract year in 2024, and although he’s been a solid player for the Cowboys, he will need a big year to earn a second contract. There will be a new defensive coordinator coming in after the departure of Dan Quinn to Washington. Osa didn’t make the leap this season that we were all expecting after an upward trajectory in his sophomore season. For the Cowboys to go all the way in 2024, Osa will need to step up his game.

Johnathan Hankins

PFF Overall (NFL Rank): 51.8 (104th)

PFF Rush Defense (NFL Rank): 49.9 (92nd)

PFF Pass Rush (NFL Rank): 62.8 (79th)

We all envision Johnathan Hankins as our big run-stopper in the middle of the defense, but the numbers show he wasn’t as effective as we thought. Yes, the rush defense improved when he was on the field, but it was a marginal improvement and not some miracle cure. According to PFF, Hankins finished the season with a putrid 49.9 rush defense grade, ranking 92nd in the NFL. Hankins was rarely in on passing downs but was able to manage 3.0 sacks, his highest total since the 2016 season.

Grade: C

Hankins wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t amazing either. When the Cowboys were getting run over by teams like the Bills and 49ers, not even Hankins’ presence could stop the bleeding. We don’t know if he will be offered another one-year contract to remain with the Cowboys, but whether he stays or goes, I’m indifferent.

Cowboys tight end roster review: Jake Ferguson’s rise makes Dallas’ job easy this offseason - Jess Haynie, Blogging the Boys

Jake Ferguson’s breakout season paces the tight end position for Dallas for next season.

The 2024 offseason comes with many question marks for the Dallas Cowboys roster, but the tight end position is one they won’t need to worry over. Thanks to Jake Ferguson’s ascension as the starter and young depth under contract, TE is one of the team’s strengths as it prepares for its next campaign.

Ferguson’s excellent first year as TE1 was just capped with being named a Pro Bowl alternate. Just two seasons in, the former fourth-round pick has already made us forget Dalton Schultz and looks like the best to man the position since Jason Witten. He’s also one of the team’s best bargains on a Day 3 rookie contract; even a likely bump in pay from performance escalators won’t change that.

You almost have to feel bad for Luke Schoonmaker, who didn’t ask to be drafted in the second round or by a team that already had its guy. He’ll have a hard time justifying the draft position in Ferguson’s shadow, but the front office deserves the criticism there. At the very least, Schoonmaker is a talented backup who’s also provided solid work as a run blocker. His offensive role could expand in his second season and allow Dallas to exploit matchup problems.

TEs Under Contract for 2024

Jake Ferguson - $1.16m cap hit

Luke Schoonmaker - $1.42m cap hit

Peyton Hendershot- $990k cap hit

John Stephens - $916k cap hit

Princeton Fant - $795k cap hit

Even beyond the top two, things are pretty solid overall. Peyton Hendershot has proven effective when targeted and a good runner after the catch. We’re also intrigued to see if John Stephens Jr., a TE/WR hybrid, can come back from a preseason ACL tear and build on the strong receiving work he showed last year. Prospect Princeton Fant, an undrafted free agent last year, is also back after spending 2023 on the practice squad.

One thing we can almost guarantee this spring is that Dallas won’t be making any big moves at tight end. Their top two are set and they could ride with the current depth. At most, we’ll probably see them add a few camp bodies from this year’s UDFA crop or maybe a very late-round pick for a player they really like.

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