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Mailbag: What To Expect From Nolan's Defense?


With Mike Nolan coming on as defensive coordinator, what type of defense should we expect? Penetrate, stop the run on the way to the quarterback or read/react? How have his defenses performed in sacks and turnovers?- GRANT THOMASSON / TYLER, TX

Nick: I think you can expect a little bit of everything. Mike McCarthy took a while to get there, but eventually told us he plans on using a 4-man front, but also said his goal is to get long, athletic players that are simply good football players. After that, he'll fit the scheme around that. So to me, it sounds like Mike Nolan and his defensive staff will probably just stick to the 4-3 scheme for now but as they continue to acquire players, they'll always be evolving and if it ends up in more of a 3-4 look, they're not afraid to go there.

Rob: Nolan has run different styles of defense over the years – a lot of 3-4, but some base 4-3 in Atlanta, so I've never thought the Cowboys would have to force a major scheme overhaul in a matter of months. With the Falcons, his most recent stop as defensive coordinator from 2012-14, Atlanta ranked in the top-six in takeaways two out of three years. That has been his reputation, and to me, that's the biggest thing holding the Cowboys back on defense the last few years.

Is it reasonable to hope that players in last year's draft class that didn't contribute in 2019 such as Trysten Hill, Connor McGovern, and Jalen Jelks can be more successful in their second year and augment the 2020 draft class? With all those free agents, it would appear the Cowboys really need the extra depth. Your thoughts? - PETER MALLIRIS / EUGENE, OR

Nick: That would be the hope under a new staff or the old staff. Any guys that are drafted, especially that high, need to make a big leap in Year 2, regardless what they did last year and who is coaching them. Trysten Hill will be expected to be a much bigger contributor and McGovern, if fully healthy, will probably compete for a starting guard spot. As for guys like Jelks, we'll see what a full year in the weight room looks like and he might be a player that will be a big surprise heading into next year's camp.

Rob: Hill at least got some work in the defensive line rotation down the stretch. It'll be interesting to see how he fits into their new style of defense, even if it's still a base 4-3. I do think McGovern has a chance to be a productive offensive lineman in this league now that he's healthy, so your point about depth is well taken. Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo are set to be free agents and you can't re-sign everybody.

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