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Mailbag: Investing In The Defensive Line?

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It's always been said that games are won in the trenches. Do you think our primary focus right now should be building a dominant defensive front, similar to what we accomplished with our O-Line? - SCOOTER HOFFMAN / BANDERA, TX

David: It should be right up near the top of the list. DeMarcus Lawrence is the only building block they have under contract, as Robert Quinn, Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods are all headed for free agency. They're going to re-sign a couple of those guys, but this team still needs help at tackle and end. The only thing that gives me pause is they can't afford to forget about the secondary. The Cowboys need a safety and likely a starting-caliber cornerback. But yes, they absolutely need to prioritize their defensive line this spring.

Rob: Had a feeling this question might be coming after watching San Francisco dominate the NFC playoffs. To some extent, the Cowboys have invested a good amount of resources in the defensive line. Tank Lawrence was a first-rounder. Randy Gregory, before this ongoing indefinite suspension, was a second-rounder. Maliek Collins was a third-rounder. And just last year, Trysten Hill was their top pick in the second round. But yes, I do agree with your assessment that the best teams are usually built from the inside out. I definitely think it could be a point of emphasis in the draft given the change at defensive coordinator and a couple key players with expiring contracts (Collins, Robert Quinn).

After watching the success of both Tennessee and San Francisco this postseason, where did the Cowboys fall short? Scheme? Personnel? We arguably have one of the best offensive lines, running backs and a better than average quarterback, who by the way can run. I'm at a loss. - ANDREW GRAY / MARTINSVILLE, VA

David: I lean toward scheme, to be perfectly honest. Perhaps this team wasn't as talented as thought at training camp, but this is still a strong roster. There's talent all over the place. I'm not convinced it was always utilized in the right way — or at the right time. Last year's team never seemed to find an identity, and it never was able to consistently use all of its pieces to its advantage. There's plenty of blame to pass on to the players, but I do feel like the Cowboys could have done more to maximize the talent they do have.

Rob: You probably won't like my answer because it's very similar to last year's. The offense gained a lot of yards but didn't cash in on enough drives. The red zone was an issue in the losses. Slow starts were an issue most weeks. And the defense didn't force enough turnovers, didn't create enough short fields for the offense. Field position wasn't an advantage, and special teams was part of that, too. When a team doesn't meet expectations like this, there's usually more than one reason.

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