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Cowboys news: All eyes on DC change after Dan Quinn leaves for Commanders

All the Dallas Cowboys news that’s fit to print.

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Reviewing the Cowboys’ DC candidates - Richard Paolinelli, Inside The Star

The Cowboys don’t appear too interested in thinking outside the box for their defensive coordinator hire.

Zimmer was once the defensive coordinator for the Cowboys from 2000-2006. He served under head coaches Dave Campo and Bill Parcells.

He was a defensive assistant coach for Dallas from 1994-1999 before being promoted.

Zimmer was the defensive coordinator in Atlanta (2007) and Cincinnati (2008-2013). From 2014-2021 he was the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

In 2022 he was a consultant at Jackson State in Deion Sanders’ final year there before moving on to Colorado.

Zimmer did not have an official football job in 2023.

Zimmer does have connections with Dallas – mainly within the front office. And his defenses were ranked highly for the most part.

More importantly, his defenses were very hard to run against.

And Dallas’ biggest issues on defense are centered up the middle at stopping the run and containing mobile quarterbacks.

Zimmer’s biggest downside is his age. At 67 years old, can he relate to – and motivate – a new generation of players?

Ron Rivera

Like Zimmer, Rivera is also in his 60s. At 62 years old, the same question of his being able to connect to younger players hangs overhead.

He has spent the last 13 seasons as a head coach – nine at Carolina and the last four at Washington.

The last time he was a defensive coordinator only was with the Chargers from 2008-2010.

His defenses were usually very good. And he would bring familiarity with the three NFC East division rivals.

Not to mention extra motivation to beat the Commanders and the man who replaced him.

Rivera was a linebacker and played for the Bears’ Super Bowl XX-winning team in 1985. He would likely revamp the Cowboys’ linebacker corps.

NFL news roundup: Latest league updates from Monday, Feb. 5 - Staff, NFL.com

There has been a lot of change around the entire NFC East already this offseason.

Dallas Cowboys

2023 · 12-5-0

COACHING INTERVIEWS

The Cowboys will meet will former Commanders head coach Ron Rivera about their defensive coordinator job, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per sources.

New York Giants

2023 · 6-11-0

COACHING NEWS

The Giants have agreed to terms with Titans defensive coordinator Shane Bowen to be their next defensive coordinator, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported, per sources.

Philadelphia Eagles

2023 · 11-6-0

COACHING HIRES

The Eagles announced the hiring of Kellen Moore as their offensive coordinator on Monday morning.

Washington Commanders

2023 · 4-13-0

COACHING NEWS

The Commanders announced the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury as the team’s offensive coordinator Monday morning. New HC Dan Quinn announced at his introductory conference today that OC Eric Bieniemy will not be on his staff in 2024.

Dan Quinn’s departure could provide new perspective on several Cowboys defenders - Jess Haynie, Blogging the Boys

Dan Quinn had a lot of say in the Cowboys personnel choices on defense, but the new coordinator will still have a lot of talent to work with.

With Quinn and Parsons as the catalysts, plenty of other Cowboys defenders have reaped benefits. Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland have become household names as cornerbacks with record-breaking and threatening interception totals. DeMarcus Lawrence has returned to Pro Bowl recognition and league-wide respect in 2022 and 2023. Jayron Kearse, another 2021 arrival, went from a journeyman backup to a team leader with the Cowboys. Leighton Vander Esch also saw his stock rise in 2021, thanks partially to better health but also more success in Quinn’s defense.

Some of these guys probably won’t get to show their stuff in the post-Quinn defense. Kearse is a free agent and unlikely to be re-signed with Malik Hooker, Donovan Wilson, Markquese Bell, and Juanyeh Thomas all under contract for 2024. Vander Esch has one more year on his deal but may retire given the latest setbacks with his neck. And while it will be a tough call, Lawrence’s high salary cap hit makes him a target in discussions for cap casualties.

Will the next defensive coordinator build on Quinn’s work or look to do more of a renovation? Thankfully, individually gifted stars like Parsons, Diggs, and Bland will still be here to help him along. But as we saw in 2020 with Mike Nolan, some new coordinators are too intent on making their mark and end up trying to force square pegs into round holes.

What’s Next? Backup TE role is unsettled in Dallas - Patrik Walker, DallasCowboys.com

Jake Ferguson was one of the bright spots on the Cowboys offense all season, and the tight end position has room to grow this offseason with Luke Schoonmaker behind him.

Present: During his time in Dallas, Schultz was statistically the favorite target of Dak Prescott, and the Cowboys opting to draft his eventual successor, Ferguson, in the fourth-round (which was, not so coincidentally, the same round they found Schultz in back in 2018) of the 2022 NFL Draft put the veteran tight end on notice that his time was all but over once his franchise tag expired. What would all but guarantee this became reality was the splash made by both Ferguson and his undrafted rookie Peyton Hendershot.

That led to gobs of excitement for the future in the tight ends room, and Schultz would go on to join the Houston Texans, but Ferguson would find himself first in line to ascend to TE1, but there was a bit of a hiccup in that the team then spent a second-round pick on Luke Schoonmaker in the 2023 NFL Draft.

To his credit, however, Ferguson didn’t view the decision as a slight. Instead, he battened down the hatches and not only embraced Schoonmaker — mentoring him immediately, readily and consistently — but also while finding a higher gear for Year 2. It was a breakout season for Ferguson, who solidified himself as one of the best tight ends in the entire NFL (also acknowledged as such by Travis Kelce) and, with that, any discussion on who is atop the tight end throne in Dallas is put to bed.

It’s Ferguson, period.

NFL Draft Prospects Cowboys Must Target After 2024 Shrine, Senior Bowls - Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report

The Cowboys are due for a reset at running back, and should be looking to the draft to potentially replace Tony Pollard.

Ray Davis, RB, Kentucky

Even if the Cowboys retain Tony Pollard, who played on the franchise tag in 2023, they could use help at running back. Dallas ranked just 20th in yards per carry, and they were far too often one-dimensional on offense.

Dallas doesn’t necessarily have to swing at the position early, though, as teams frequently uncover starting-caliber backs later in the draft. Following a strong week of Senior Bowl practices, Kentucky’s Ray Davis is a prospect Dallas must track.

“Davis continued to prove he’s more than just a bowling ball of a back,” Derrik Klassen of the Bleacher Report Scouting Department wrote. “...Davis made a tough shoelace grab at the goal line during red-zone drills. The catch was a nice finish to Davis’ week and confirmed what’s been true on film all year: He’s a good pass-catcher.”

The 5’8”, 220-pound Davis is a compact runner who can get tough yards between the tackles. In Mobile, though, he also showed that he can be a playmaker in the receiving game.

Davis tallied 1,452 scrimmage yards this past season while averaging 5.7 yards per carry and scoring 21 touchdowns. He was the 104th-ranked prospect on the B/R Scouting Department’s January draft board, and he’s worth a long look from the Cowboys on Day 2.

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