It's clear that the Cowboys need help on in all three phases of the team. I see the three primary needs as an anchor on the defensive line, safety (which has been a need for years) and an offensive lineman. How would you rank their needs? — JIM WHATLEY / HENDERSON, TX
Nick: I would slingshot cornerback up to the top. That might be your biggest need come free agency and the draft. I would imagine Chido Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis both test the waters and could be gone next year. Anthony Brown and Trevon Diggs are solid but this team could use a better No. 1 corner. I would say CB, safety and D-tackle would be the order of my needs but you could convince me of anything that helps the defense.
Jonny: There isn't an area of this defense that wouldn't be drastically improved by a Pro Bowl caliber player. I think linebacker is a legitimate need, and the best offenses Dallas has faced this year have proven that. Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie's future on this team are uncertain, so cornerback is a need, as well. The secondary just has to improve. I'd probably put safety and cornerback as the top two needs if they want to put a great defense on the field in the next few years.
Before the season started, there was talk about how the Cowboys' defensive alignment would match the abilities of the players on the field. However, it seems like the Cowboys continue to play in the nickel far too often for a team that struggles against the run and by having their defensive ends stand up instead of utilizing the three-point stance for leverage. What is your take? — RUSSELL RODGERS / MIDLAND, TX
Nick: I think you are spot-on with your assessment. It doesn't look like this team really fits the scheme around the players at all. Too many times Tuesday night we saw the Cowboys simply outmanned by alignment and that led to the run-defense problems. I do think the personnel is hurting this team right now but all season long it seems like the Cowboys aren't putting enough resources to stopping the run and they are constantly paying for it.
Jonny: I mostly agree with your assessment and admire your ability to think it would make much of a difference. I can't really explain it except to provide the frustrating non-answer that the coaches are the ones seeing them on the practice field (though we're all seeing them on the playing field). Things have just unraveled for this team, and claiming you're going to fit your style to players' abilities is one thing, but sometimes you're just trying to give them what you think they can handle and hope to keep your head above water.