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Mailbag: Need to build from the inside-out?


Why does it seem like the Cowboys are always building their teams from the "outside-in" versus the "inside-out"? There is always a need for a defensive tackle and middle linebacker. There is always a group of good receivers, but no inside rushing attack. – Robert Brantley/Atlanta, GA

Nick Eatman: I don't think that's accurate, to be honest. If you look at the last three first-round picks, all of them have been from the "inside" as you called it. Last year, they picked Mazi Smith, the first defensive tackle selected in the first round in over 30 years. Whether or not it worked out, doesn't mean they didn't try to strengthen that inside. The year before, they took Tyler Smith in the first round to play guard at first and eventually tackle. We'll see if he ever moves out to tackle. But that's another inside move and then with Micah Parsons in 2021, he was drafted as a linebacker, and someone who could potentially play in the middle. It was Week 2 of the season when they decided to move him to the outside and they found something special. Now that's just three first-round picks, but from the building sense, I think the Cowboys have always thought it was important to strengthen the O-line and the D-line. It just doesn't always work the way you want it, or they want it. But I'll say this, the Cowboys need to keep going to the well. Back to the O-line and D-line again in the draft is something I would do.

Patrik: I'm going to have to push back on this one just a bit, though I understand where (I think) you're trying to go with the question. Prior to the McCarthy/Quinn era, the Cowboys were severely deficient on the interior of their defensive line, it's true. But, even then, they put a lot of stock in trying to resolve the issue at linebacker — e.g., using a first-round pick on Leighton Vander Esch, a Day 2 pick on Jabril Cox and then Damone Clark, and then on DeMarvion Overshown, etc. — but it's just not worked out for the long-term quite yet. I'll also say they have not always had a group of good receivers, that is unless you were sold on the dynamic talent of an aged Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns, or the unproven Deonte Thompson and an inconsistent Brice Butler. Prior to the 2023 season, however, they've certainly had an inside rushing attack by way of DeMarco Murray and then Ezekiel Elliott, before parting ways with the latter this past season. I can honestly say the only issue I have with linebacker is the problems created by injuries. My issue with the run game is that, in my opinion, Elliott should've still been in the building in 2023 (but let's move on from that now). And the dilemma at defensive tackle is less than most, after seeing the progress Osa Odighizuwa and the other 3-techs are making; the "bigger" issue being the situation at nose tackle behind Johnathan Hankins, who is a free agent this coming March.

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