The Cowboys have completed their OTAs and minicamp practices. The offseason is history. Training camp in Oxnard is up next in late July.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rob Phillips, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – are attempting to answer 20 pressing questions as the team gets ready for camp and the 2016 season.
Today, our staff continues the series by debating which offseason addition will make the biggest impact on defense.
14) Which Defensive Newcomer Will Make the Biggest Impact?
Rob Phillips: Cedric Thornton has four career sacks, so he's not likely to make a big statistical splash. But he's the most proven defensive player the Cowboys added this offseason. Benson Mayowa will have an immediate chance to rush the passer as quite possibly the Week 1 starter at right defensive end. The team hopes to get contributions from Maliek Collins and Charles Tapper. But Thornton is a really strong run defender who for years made things difficult for the Cowboys' offense as a member of the Eagles. He should form a strong tandem with Tyrone Crawford at tackle and I think his strength at the point of attack should help the linebackers flow to the ball. His stats might not be flashy, but he'll be a solid addition to this defensive front.
David Helman: I'm going to cheat, and I don't care that I'm doing it, because the pickings are slim in this particular category. I think Byron Jones' full-time move to safety is going to be the most noticeable addition to this defense in 2016. Yes, Jones was a member of this defense last year, and he even played some safety. But he never had the opportunity to truly settle in and learn the ins and outs of one position. Hopefully, with Jones focusing solely on safety, he'll be able to combine his knowledge of the position with his freakish athleticism. If he can do that, he's got the talent to be a rare talent in the backfield – the type the Cowboys haven't had in recent memory. If he plays up to those expectations, the Cowboys might have a reliable playmaker in their secondary, and Jones might be able to offset some of the problems facing this pass rush.
Nick Eatman: I'm interested to see what Charles Tapper can do for this defense. He'll definitely get some chances early to shine with the suspensions to Gregory and Lawrence. Tapper played in a scheme that didn't always allow him to use his speed and quick first step to get up the field. He'll be in a more aggressive mindset with this defense and it should help him make more plays. Tapper isn't the biggest rusher by any means but he has to be ultra-quick. The good thing about these young ends is the work they'll get in training camp. Facing the likes of Tyron Smith and Doug Free every day should help any young player get ready for the real action of the regular season. I think Tapper will get the chance to shine and I'm predicting he takes advantage of it.
Bryan Broaddus:I honestly didn't have to give this much thought – Benson Mayowa will be the defensive newcomer that will make the biggest impact. The scouts knew what they were doing when they went after him. He is going to surprise a lot of fans in the way he plays this season. His tape with the Raiders was productive and the fact that he started his career with the Seahawks, who in my opinion are outstanding in the way that they evaluate edge rushers, makes him even better in my eyes. Don't let his lack of bulk fool you – he knows how to play the edge against the run and he will not be knocked around when he has to do it. This guy has some complete football player to his game. There is no doubt in my mind that he will be the starter at right defensive end when the season opens against the New York Giants.[embeddedad0]