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Mailbag: Who Is The 2nd Best Player On Defense?

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Who is the second best player on defense, and what must Dallas do going forward to be mentioned in conversations when it comes to the top five defenses in the NFL?— BERNARD HENRY / PETERSBURG, VA

Jonny: I am assuming that we're calling DeMarcus Lawrence the best player on the defense? If so, I would say that a healthy Leighton Vander Esch is the second best player. To be honest, I think quite a bit has to go right for the Cowboys to have a top-five defense. Lawrence has to play like a dominant pass rusher. The linebackers have to stay healthy. And a cornerback has to emerge as capable of covering elite receivers. But I think Lawrence and whoever is starting opposite him will be the key. Getting to the opposing quarterback mitigates a lot of things on a defense.

David: I'm so intrigued by what Gerald McCoy might be able to provide for this group. The Cowboys haven't had a Pro Bowl three technique since Jason Hatcher posted 11 sacks in 2013. I don't know if McCoy can hit double digits, but he has averaged six sacks per season over his entire career. That's going to be a heck of a help for DeMarcus Lawrence. If the Cowboys want to be in the top five, they've got to defend the run much better and take the ball away. They didn't do either of those things in 2019.

Have not heard any mention of putting Worley at strong safety, do you think they are considering this, he has the size and from reports is a better zone defender than man to man, we have mostly free safeties on the roster now.— HUGH CUTHRELL / LUSBY, MD

Jonny: I think Worley is the type of player you sign hoping you can find the most advantageous way to use him. The Cowboys might currently have more intriguing cornerbacks than they can reasonably keep on their roster. One way to justify keeping them around is by moving one to safety. Talent's important, but positional competence is how you see the field. I think you might be onto something, but ultimately he has to convince the coaches on the field and not us.

David: It's really encouraging that Worley has the flexibility to change positions, but I believe he mainly played safety for the Raiders out of desperation. I would imagine he'll get his first look at cornerback, but it's nice knowing he can wear multiple hats if he needs to.

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