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Mailbag: Set At D-Line, Or Geno Atkins An Option?

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Improvement in edge pressure and run stoppage would top my list of needs going into 2021. Do you think enough has been done to shore up these deficiencies? — LES HOFFMAN / PELL CITY, AL

Nick: Of course, I could give you the "we'll see" answer. Because it's true, we are about to find this out – at least over the next few weeks. But I have some optimism here when it comes to the defense. I'm counting on the pass rush to be much better. Tarell Basham will help out, as will Micah Parsons as a rusher. Randy Gregory could be ready for a huge year, and that's on top of DeMarcus Lawrence. I do believe Dan Quinn is going to help this pass-rush. As for the run defense, a lot of players were added inside. The linebackers were upgraded as well. So if you add it all together, yes I think the deficiencies have been addressed. But ... we'll see!

David: Probably not, would be my initial guess. To be fair to them, they've definitely thrown some resources at the problem. They signed some free agent defensive tackles, they've got Randy Gregory back and ready for a full season, and they also used some big-time draft picks to fix the problem – Micah Parsons, Osa Odighizuwa and Chauncey Golston. Is all of that enough to fix it right away? I tend to doubt it. I think you're asking too many things to go right. But I do have optimism that it'll improve. It just might take more than one season to achieve the desired result.

What are the odds that the Cowboys sign Geno Atkins? I think he would be a nice bridge for a veteran player to help the young defensive line, plus give the Cowboys an edge on defense to stop the run. — STEPHEN GRAYSON / GREENVILLE, MS

Nick: I'm going to say probably not. Not sure where he is with his injury issues. But even if he's still pretty good, I would think you could call him a "progress stopper." Between the tackles of Gallimore, Hill, Odighizuwa, Urban, Bohanna, Watkins and whoever else is in the mix, someone should be able to step up and play. If not, then maybe yes you go the route of getting a veteran. But for now, it's got to come from someone in this group.

David: I wouldn't bet on it. The front office has made it abundantly clear that they don't have a ton of cap space right now, and they don't seem like they're dying to spend what little of it they do have. Atkins isn't the world-wrecking player he used to be, but he can still command a higher salary than the Cowboys want to pay. I know you've heard this before, but I think they want to give all these young guys a chance to show their stuff.

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