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Mailbag: How Much Has The D-Line Improved?


Pro Football Focus ranked Dallas' defensive line 14th for this year. After signing Everson Griffen how much higher on the list, do you think they moved up? Do you think they might move Everson Griffen or Aldon Smith inside on obvious passing downs like the Giants' NASCAR package? — HUGH CUTHRELL / LUSBY, MD

David: I still don't think they're in the top tier with teams like San Francisco and Pittsburgh. But there's no doubt the Cowboys have turned a group that looked like a weakness into a strength – on paper, at least. If everyone plays up to their potential, I think this group could hit 45 or more sacks, which would place them near the top 10. And yes, I absolutely could see different nickel pass rush packages happening. The Cowboys have too many talented pass rushers not to try mixing and matching, depending on the situation.

Rob: Well, we've seen Cowboys defenses in the past find ways to get their best pass rushers on the field in certain situations, too. (Former head coach Wade Phillips had a "Cowboy defense" package back in the day.) We'll see what they do, but it's clear that the Cowboys have brought in linemen such as Griffen and Smith and Gerald McCoy who are versatile, who can play different spots. Griffen is a big-time addition so close to the start of the season. He plays really hard, he's productive, and it sounds like his teammates in Minnesota loved playing with him.

With the Cowboys practicing at the Star for the first time in team history, can you speak to the pros and cons of training at home? — J.M. SMITH / ST. CHARLES, MD

David: Well, the pros are probably that they have everything they could possibly want. The Star features three practice fields, one of which is indoor. They have a ton of space for socially distant meetings and whatnot, they have state-of-the-art medical facilities – including a hospital across the street. They're also currently staying in a five-star hotel for the duration of training camp. The downside is that it's August in Texas, and it is freaking hot. Even with 8 a.m. practices, players are dealing with 85 and 90-degree temperatures. It's not the end of the world, but it's a far cry from the 75-degree days they typically enjoy in Oxnard.

Rob: If you want to be technical about it, they've had a week training camp at Ford Center the last few years. But other than the Texas heat, which you can't do anything about, I really see zero drawbacks to training at The Star. From the locker room to Ford Center as a makeshift team meeting space, it's constructed in a way that can adhere to the league's social distancing requirements. They've got turf field and a grass field outside, which Mike McCarthy prefers. So far they've gotten their outside practice work done early in the morning before temperatures rise. And with the Omni next door, much of the team has volunteered to stay there for camp and create a bubble-like atmosphere. Logistically, you can't ask for much more.