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Mailbag: Responsibility for Run Defense Struggles?

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We have a nice record, but we've lost our last two playoff games in part because we couldn't stop the run. Is it the scheme or the players that are responsible for the porous run defense? – Mark Mumford/Wilmington, DE

Nick: Nah, I'm not going there with you. I don't think there's any part of this defense you can call "porous" at all. Ok, they rank 25th against the run and third against the pass. Overall, this defense ranks seventh in yards and third in points allowed. If you want to pick on the run defense, go ahead. And yes, they didn't get off the field against the Eagles when they needed to, and lost. Let's see if it becomes a problem down the road. But if you can't see what Chicago did in that last game, that's on you. The Bears opted to keep running, which is probably why they lost by 20. Yes, teams have had some success running, but it's not usually leading to points. And as for the playoff losses, I'd only really reference one game. Going back before Dan Quinn and Micah Parsons got here seems pointless.

Patrik: I do believe the Cowboys still need to get the run defense figured out, but I also believe the addition of Johnathan Hankins will help in a big way. He took 33 defensive reps for Dallas only five days after being traded from the Raiders and he excelled in the role of big-body nose tackle who doesn't loose in the phone booth. When there aren't key players lost to injury behind him – e.g., Malik Hooker and Donovan Wilson (a key run-defender) – you'll probably see it begin to come together (along with the progression of Damone Clark). I don't place much concern over allowing the Bears to keep running the ball, and clock, in a blowout win because, to be frank, it wasn't going to change the outcome of the game. But, going forward, let's see how Hankins and a healthy defense looks against the run.

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