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McClay looking at 'bigger bodies' for Zimmer defense


INDIANAPOLIS — Dallas Cowboys vice president of player personnel Will McClay and various members of the coaching staff, scouting department and front office are entrenched in downtown Indianapolis this week to meet with players at the NFL Combine and see draft prospects test in a rigorous scouting environment in front of the 32 teams.

For McClay, it's a week full of action that doesn't stop from the moment he arrives in The Hoosier State to the time he departs, but the process allows him and his colleagues to get a better feel for who players are off the field as well as how they look in-person.

"It's sunup to sundown with interviews, and then getting to see these guys run around, it is a big week and it's been fun," McClay said. "I wish there was more time, but we gotta get it done now. They do a great job of setting up the interviews and the timing, it's just a little bit more than what we're used to."

The Cowboys are in the midst of conducting dozens of formal and informal interviews throughout the week with the prospects in attendance in Indianapolis, which McClay calls an important part of the draft process.

"It's big for us, because we spend so much time gathering information and asking people about them, now we get to put our own inferences on them, sit down with them," he said. "Our coaches are here and we get to figure out which guys may be able to fit from a personality standpoint, work ethic and all of that."

While head coach Mike McCarthy and new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer are back in Dallas continuing to construct the new-look defense, they are able to video into all interviews. For Zimmer, his personnel vision is showing up in the scouting process with McClay and his staff to find players that fit his mold.

"As we begin this process, it's a little different scheme," McClay said. "We're looking for big, athletic football players. Finding guys that have those little nuances that [Mike Zimmer] has. It's been great for us to spend time with the coaches and hear them talk to players and communicate so we can get a better feel for what that is as well."

"I think we're probably going to look more so at those bigger bodies at the inside, stopping that. We're always looking at linebackers. That's a position that in free agency and in the draft that we're going to have to look at because we want to add more players there."

On the offensive side of the ball, figuring out how to improve the run game is an offseason focus as the McClay and his scouting department hone in on what they are looking for in the draft class.

"Number-one, they gotta be able to run the football, and then it's how well they pick up things," he said. "We're looking at it from a measurement standpoint and the different types of backs there are, and then do they fit into our system? That's vitally important, but even more important is the guys that open up those holes."

The process powers on through the weekend for McClay and his staff as they will continue to evaluate the characters and in-person skillset of each prospect they have on their draft board.

"We want to figure out who the guy is," he said. "We want to bring them in, ask them about the stuff that they do, see if they can learn our stuff in those short instances, and really find out what they're all about. There are some guys that come into the room and you can tell right away that there's that dynamic personality. It's just getting to know the players that's the coolest part about this."

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