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Mailbag: Explaining The Defense's Turnaround?

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We can all agree that the defense, at least in some areas, is improving. How much of that can be credited to time vs. parting ways with veterans who were taking slots from hungry young guys vs. getting our DBs healthy and finally playing together? - DAVID EWING / ARLINGTON, TX

Rob: All of the above. Mike McCarthy referenced "continuity" and "time" twice each Sunday when explaining the defense's turnaround. Randy Gregory, Donovan Wilson and Neville Gallimore have capitalized on extra snaps after the Cowboys decided to part ways with Everson Griffen, Daryl Worley and Dontari Poe. And yes, the secondary is finally getting closer to full strength. Granted, the last three opponents have struggled offensively this season. But it's obvious the defense is playing faster and more confidently than past weeks.

David: I mean, at the end of the day they only got rid of two veterans — and for the most part, the guys that have benefited from the release of Dontari Poe and Daryl Worley have been fellow veterans. So I'm not sure I buy that. Getting the secondary healthy definitely helps. But more than anything, I think it's probably time on task. Getting your core group to practice and play together over the course of the last two months has clearly paid dividends.

Can we get an update on how the players on IR (Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, etc.) are doing on their recovery? - STEVE BELL / GASTONIA, NC

Rob: The Cowboys have said repeatedly they anticipate all three players back healthy for next year. Head coach Mike McCarthy said last week that Prescott's rehab from ankle surgery is going "very well." "Dak is just like you would think he would be -- very involved, very upbeat, just attacking his rehab," McCarthy said.

David: That's one of the many reasons why this COVID season sucks so much. The bottom line is that we don't have nearly the same level of access to these players as normal. In a regular year, I'd undoubtedly have run into Tyron or La'el in the cafeteria, or maybe we'd catch up with Dak in the locker room. That's not happening in 2020 — and understandably so, given all the precautions that go into preventing an outbreak. But the downside is that we don't have much information on how those guys are doing, other than what the team says. The team says they're all doing fine, so for now I suppose we have to take them at their word.

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