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Mailbag: How Much Will The Defense Change?

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With Mike McCarthy, could the Cowboys switch back to a 3-4 defense and what would be the challenges of doing so? - MIKE S / DALLAS, TX

Nick: It sounds like it's on the table to make that switch but it might be something you try to do over the next year. With so many free agents on the D-Line, it's hard to see what they have coming back. The challenge is always finding those 3-4 stand-up rushers. I think D-Law could do it but they still need others. I'm not sure they have a true nose tackle for that scheme either. But we saw it happen in 2005 and they basically changed the personnel in one draft.

Rob: The Packers ran both 4-3 and 3-4 under McCarthy, but he didn't want to speculate on defensive plans during the introductory press conference. I'll say this: Bill Parcells ran a 3-4 throughout his coaching career, but he waited two years before switching to it here in 2005. It takes some time to get the right personnel. Now, maybe the new staff will feel it has enough pieces to run some of it – and they've got a lot of decisions to make on free agents on that side of the ball, anyway.

I realize there are far too many things to be worked out or ironed out before there is a definite answer to this question, but in your opinion or best guess, do you think the Cowboys will try and retain or bring back both Robert Quinn or Michael Bennett? If not both, then which one would you guess they might try and bring back? - RAY LADD / PRYOR, OK

Nick: That's a good question especially the last one. Both Bennett and Quinn have preferred 4-3 schemes and so that might affect what they do. If I had to get one, I think I'd keep Quinn but only because he's probably got a few years still left and hasn't hinted at retirement like Bennett did earlier this year. But both have them proved they can still play.

Rob: If Quinn tests the market it seems likely he'll get some offers elsewhere after a 11.5-sack season. And obviously the Cowboys have a lot of financial decisions coming up. Not sure about Bennett, either. He'll be 35 in November, but showed he's still a productive player. The Cowboys reworked his contract, which previously had two years remaining, that lets him become a free agent in March. So he's got options, too. Either way pass rush could be a draft priority depending on what happens.

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