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Mailbag: Middle of the D being emphasized?


As a long-time Cowboys fan, I remember Tom Landry always emphasized a strong defense up the middle. Was this the thinking behind the drafting of Mazi Smith and the renewed emphasis on the safety position? I certainly hope so. In the Landry era, I loved when teams tried to run on them because Dallas usually won those battles and thus controlled the game. Looking forward to seeing those times return. – Clarence Webster/Milford, MA

Mickey: Why for sure the Cowboys run defense must improve from last season when teams ran for at least 100 yards in 11 of 17 games and in the second of two playoff games. Not sure if what took place during the Landry Era or Jimmy Johnson Era had any influence on the Cowboys drafting DT Mazi Smith in the first round. The Cowboys realized they had to get bigger and better in the middle of their line, and another reason for not only drafting Smith but also re-signing space-eating DT Johnathan Hankins. They have been transitioning under DC Dan Quinn from the quicker defensive tackles under Rod Marinelli to adding more size to the defensive line room. That also has been somewhat accomplished by move Chauncey Golston from defensive end to defensive tackle.

Nick Harris: Having a strong presence up the middle is definitely important to a defense's success, and it certainly was a point of emphasis this offseason after the run defense suffered in those areas last season. I wouldn't say that it was necessarily because of Tom Landry's philosophy, but that could be an example of one of the many strategies from his days still lingering with today's team. I will agree with you that the emphasis on locking down a strong safety group has been fun to see play out. The three-headed monster of Donovan Wilson, Malik Hooker and Jayron Kearse provides a strong "safety" net to Mazi Smith and Leighton Vander Esch on the first two levels as each have an adept open-field tackling ability.

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