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Mailbag: Cornerstones On Defense For 2021?

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I am wondering which defensive players currently on the roster and under contract for next year are good to go as starters next year and thus we won't be prioritizing or looking for upgrades/replacements? I have 3: LVE, D-Law and Jaylon Smith. Agree and any others? — DAVE NYSTROM / LOUDON, TN

Nick: Hmm, I think you're generous with three. Based on the phrasing of the question, I only see one player that I'm completely solid with and not worried about upgrading and that's D-Law. You'd like to think LVE will be there but he's got injury issues. So finding more depth at linebacker is good. There are young players to be encouraged about such as Diggs, Gallimore and Trysten Hill. But Jaylon Smith is a question mark at this point. He could be back but a salary-cap casualty is a possibility.

Jonny: I agree on those three, and would probably add Trevon Diggs to the list. The Cowboys need help at cornerback, but I don't see them making additions that knock Diggs out of a starting job. There might be another half-season of growing pains, but I don't think there's any question that Diggs showed that he should be part of the Cowboys' future and I think the coaching staff will try to accelerate that future.

Do you think the hiring of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is an indication the front office believes it actually has many of the right players on defense, it just needs the right scheme? — JAMES MITCHELL / INDIANAPOLIS, IN

Nick: Well, there's one way to look at it. You can also take the flip side and suggest that maybe there's a void of players on defense so that's why they hired an experienced, accomplished coach that can scheme up the players better than before. Personally, I think the Cowboys know it's going to be tough to quickly add more talent on defense and wanted to make sure they had a coach that has a proven scheme in place.

Jonny: I think it's an indication that the results that came out of Mike Nolan's defense in 2020 weren't good enough regardless of players or scheme. If it were as easy to replace defensive players as it is to replace defensive coordinators Mike Nolan might have gotten another chance. I'm not sure how the team evaluates their defensive players, but I do know that Dan Quinn won't be working with the Legion of Boom, even if he implements the same scheme as he did in Seattle.

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