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Draft Central | 2021

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Four First Impressions From New DC Dan Quinn


FRISCO, Texas – It's only fitting for such a defensive-minded draft to feature a defensive voice.

In the time since he was hired back in January, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has been talked about frequently – but he had yet to be talked to by the media.

Saturday night, at the conclusion of the draft, that changed when Quinn sat down to talk about his new job, the Cowboys' defensive personnel and this weekend's draft.

Here are a few notes from the press conference:

  • It goes without saying, but there has been a lot of conversation about what exactly Quinn's defense might look like in Dallas. Formerly a defensive coordinator for Seattle and a head coach for Atlanta, Quinn has long been associated with the famous Cover 3 system that made the Seahawks' defense famous eight years ago.
  • "For me specifically, I've been part of the same system for a good, long time myself – both in Seattle and Atlanta for that time," he said.
  • From the sounds of it, the Cowboys are going to maintain some of the aspects of the defense that was already in place, while implanting aspects of what Quinn prefers. Though, to hear it from Quinn, he had tweaks he wanted to make.
  • "I had some things that I wanted to change, as well," he said. "Certainly a combination of things of the foundation that has been here, as well as some new things that I wanted to bring into it and how we want to play and the style we do that."
  • Of course, Quinn was faced with the ever-present – and oversimplified – question about what the defense might look like. Much like the scheme Mike Nolan tried to implement last season, he allowed that the Cowboys' base alignment will look like a 3-4. At the same time, he acknowledged that NFL defenses primarily use nickel, which typically uses a different alignment.
  • "It's kind of a mixture, you know? So much of defense nowadays is played out of a nickel front. That's when we're in a four-down of what you play," he said. "As far as the base packages go, it'll look more like a 3-4 look. And that would've been consistent, whether it was the team last year or during my time, as well. But more often than not, most teams – the nickel package, which teams play close to 60% or 70% of the time, are more of the four down men."
  • Free agent signing Keanu Neal will indeed play linebacker, Quinn said. Neal was a Pro Bowl safety in Atlanta when Quinn was the Falcons' head coach from 2016-2020. The Cowboys drafted two linebackers, first-round pick Micah Parsons and fourth-round pick Jabril Cox, but those additions apparently won't impact Quinn's vision for Neal. "Adding somebody with his speed and his physicality on to our defense, we just thought that's something that we need," Quinn said.
  • Quinn will oversee the entire defense as coordinator, but given his background coaching defensive line, he plans to spend a good amount of time working with that position group. "I think you always want to have, where can you make the most impact?" Quinn said. "For me and my background, that's the spot. I look forward to doing that." Quinn has coached defensive line on four NFL teams (49ers, Dolphins, Jets and the Seahawks as defensive coordinator, too) before taking the Atlanta head coaching job in 2016.

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