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Mailbag: Change needed in defensive philosophy?


In order to be successful, the Cowboys defense needs their offense to score a lot of points to put the opposing offense in predictable situations. So do you think this team's defensive philosophy has to change? They struggle to get the job done when playing from behind. – Kevin Titus/Billings, MT

Nick Eatman:There seems to be some kind of change coming on the defensive side, especially with Dan Quinn interviewing for so many different jobs. But even if he returns to the DC role, the Cowboys have clean up the run defense, first and foremost. And they tried to address it in the draft with Mazi Smith, but he rarely played. Johnathan Hankins helps the team when he's in there, but he's not the savior either. It's the D-line, the linebackers and just the overall mentality that stopping the run has to be a priority. It seems like the idea of playing undersized linebackers, who are really safeties, is to protect themselves in the nickel and dime packages against the pass. But too many times we saw running offenses just attack the second level because they knew they could get a mismatch. And if you can't ever stop the run, you'll never play dime anyway. So, for me, it's a philosophy that has to change in stopping the run first and getting bigger, stronger players in positions to do so. 

Patrik: What's weird, to me, is the fact we've now oscillated from this being a team being one that was explosive on offense but deficient on defense (pre-Dan Quinn era) to it being completely reliant on defense and trying to figure itself out on defense and, now, again questioning what's going on defensively. One thing Quinn has excelled at is generating takeaways, something his predecessors were wildly unsuccessful at doing, but it's also fair to wonder things such as why his unit struggles so much against motion offenses, as one example. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the loss of Trevon Diggs and to a lesser but still important degree, Leighton Vander Esch, which played a part in some of the schematic struggles; but that's not nearly enough to comprehend allowing nearly 50 points to the No. 7 seed on your own field in a playoff game. So, yes, I'd say that needs to be figured out, and pronto.

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