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Mailbag: Dallas Defense Strategy for 2020?

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I realize that he was double-teamed at times, but at times he was not. What do you expect of DeMarcus Lawrence this coming season?– JIM WHATLEY / HENDERSON, TX

David: I expect him to continue to be an elite all-around defender – which he was in 2019, make no mistake about it. Having said that, it's fair to expect an uptick in explosive plays. D-Law draws double-teams, he's elite against the run and is generally a pain to deal with. But for the price tag, it would be nice to see more strip sacks, more pressures that lead to interceptions and other plays that change the flow of the game. He has shown an ability to do that during his career. Hopefully he can do it more consistently in this new defense.

Rob: I think Lawrence played better than maybe the outside narrative suggests. His sacks were down but his 32 pressures were second on defense behind Robert Quinn's 33. Teams did try to get the ball out quickly a lot against the defensive line. Expectations are always higher when you sign a $100 million deal, though, and I do think he'll be motivated to find more production in 2020. I'm curious to see how the line shapes up around him, though, with Quinn and Maliek Collins eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Will Dallas switch to a 3-4 defense this season?– TIMOTHY PROSSER / NEWPORT, CA

David: The short answer is no. Mike McCarthy has already said he intends to play a four-man front. But I think it's fair to expect multiple looks and shifting formations. Mike Nolan and Jim Tomsula have both noted that it's all semantics anyway. So I think it's fair to expect a lot of different looks over the course of the year.

Rob: At this point, it doesn't sound like the new coaching staff will force a change to that scheme. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan talked last week about getting the best 11 players on the field first. They're more focused on getting talented players and then fitting the scheme to what they do best. I think that's the right approach. Besides, more and more defenses are becoming multiple anyway. Look at the Patriots as an example.

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