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Mailbag: Prefer great line or great skill players?


There is an old adage that games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage. If that is true (and I believe it is) then why not invest more resources on the lines verses the skill players? After all, any running back can run through a gaping hole and any starting quarterback can be successful when given enough time. A defensive line that can shut down the run and pressure the quarterback is equally critical to having success. So which would you prefer, great lines or great skill players? – Brad Nystrom/Lake Villa, IL

Nick Harris: I'm with you on preferring talent in the trenches over talent at the skill positions, and I think the Dallas Cowboys are the perfect example for why. They have the skill guys: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland. Their trenches are aging quickly though, and that was exposed in the team's losses last season. In those losses, there was a clear discrepancy in physicality and that starts up front. It doesn't matter how much skill you have around it, this isn't 7-on-7. There still need to be running lanes paved offensively and running lanes erased defensively. That will be the main mission for Dallas the rest of the way this offseason.

Patrik: I passionately believe that you should build a defense from the front to the back, not the other way around. If you want average defensive backs to look good, good ones to look great and great ones to look like Hall of Famers — build a lights-out defensive front that both stop the run and force QBs into tight-windows and bad throws that can become INTs. Offensively, build the offense from the front as well and, more specifically, the offensive line from the center outward. That's because it doesn't matter how great your tackles are if teams detonate your pocket from the inside on every play. This is my philosophy, for sure, and I'll say the Cowboys went on a stretch of drafting that showed the utmost value for the offensive line, and it's time to let the pick of Tyler Smith spark the second coming of that. Defensively, using a first-round pick on a nose tackle tells me they've shifted their thought process there as well; and you can bet Mike Zimmer (who craves dynamic LBs and DTs) will keep pressing that button. That said, once you have the fronts figured out, you better also have a couple of skill players who have the potential to be the best at their position.

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