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Mailbag: What Does D-Line Rotation Look Like Now?

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With the recent signings of Brent Urban, Carlos Watkins and Tarell Basham, how do you see this impacting the development of Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore? I thought that Neville Gallimore was really coming into his own and gaining more confidence as he played more towards the end of the season. Your thoughts? — KENNETH JACOBS / DENVER, CO

David: I wouldn't include Basham in that group, as I expect he'll spend more of his time playing on the edge. But to answer the question, it doesn't bother me too much. Any good defensive line rotates its players with some frequency, so it's rare to see a guy playing more than 65-70% of the snaps. There should be plenty of snaps to go around for everyone, and it's never a bad thing to add depth to a group that's lacking it.

Jonny: Well, I don't want to compare whatever Quinn's intentions are to Mike Nolan's plan, but last offseason they signed Gerald McCoy with every intention of bringing Gallimore along and seeing what they had in Hill after a rough rookie season. I think the plan is probably similar. It's a good position to have depth in. It would be nice to see what happens throwing Gallimore out there to see how much he continues to develop, but you don't want to hire a new defensive coordinator and have too many unknowns. You want to give him some Week 1 veterans if you can and let him decide where to go from there.

I have read about the signing of Keanu Neal with the projection of having him play weak-side linebacker. Jaylon Smith has finished in the top five in tackles in the NFL. What does he have to do to be recognized as a difference maker on the Dallas D? Playing out of place (he is more of a MLB) in last year's scheme with little to no transition time would hurt anyone's performance. — BRUCE HOLDEN / GLEN BURNIE, MD

David: I'm a lot less worried about Jaylon's tackle totals and a lot more worried about his speed and instincts. For the salary he's commanding, the difference-making plays you mentioned were sorely lacking in 2020. I think you make a fair point that he didn't have a proper offseason to adjust to a new position. But again, the problems I'm concerned with are more about him having the speed and burst to get to the ball carrier, plus the awareness to know where the ball carrier is going to be. Those were consistent problems last season. He'll have plenty of opportunity to bounce back in 2021, but I don't blame the Cowboys for trying to add a bit more speed to their defense.

Jonny: Smith has been a liability in coverage more than a handful of times over the past few years. I would like to see him utilized as a pass rusher more, if just for curiosity's sake. I think there's an argument to be made that he's the most athletic player on the Cowboys' roster, and eventually the Cowboys' coaching staff has to take advantage of that athleticism.

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