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Mailbag: Fixing "Chunk Plays" & Penalties in 2022? 

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The two biggest problems the Cowboys faced last year were the penalties and the propensity of the defense to allow "chunk" plays. It seems those were two evident issues again Saturday in Denver. Do you think the "chunk" plays are something that can be addressed, or are they just a byproduct of Dan Quinn's philosophy of defense? – RUSSELL WHITE / ORANGE CITY, FL

Nick: Well, I'd argue with you on the two biggest problems the Cowboys had last year. The offense gets some blame, too, especially when it came to running the ball. But to your point, both are byproducts on what Dan Quinn is trying to do. You're not going to be aggressive enough to get interceptions and sacks, without taking some chances. Doing that is going to leave you vulnerable to big plays. It's probably going to result in more penalties as well. There has to be a better balance and that needs to be corrected. Overall, I can't remember the "chunk" plays being an overriding theme. Sure, it happens but last year had way more positive moments with the defense. The key for 2022 is stopping the run early and putting teams in position to throw. With Parsons and Diggs and the rest of the defense, that will play right into their hands.

Patrik: Fair points, but I'd tap the brakes on assigning those issues to 2022 just yet. It goes without saying that the preseason opener had more laundry than your nearest dry cleaner, but it was a heavy mix of young guys – many of whom were literally getting their first dose of actual NFL game speed – so let's see if discipline is an issue on Sept. 11 (from the starters). As for chunk plays, it's no secret that the Cowboys have recently been a bend-but-don't-break defense, and they mostly performed well in limiting the home run ball (having a ton of takeaways helps), so I do think they'll continue to prefer the underneath stuff to avoid game-changing plays downfield; but expect them to truly unleash the hounds in the pass rush to try and clamp down on the chunk plays as well this season.

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