OXNARD, Calif. — It wasn't so long ago that the Dallas Cowboys were leaning heavily on Dak Prescott and its offense, unable to figure things out on the defensive side of the ball. As a matter of fact, it was as recent as 2020 but, heading into only Year 3 of the Dan Quinn defensive era, it's one of the most formidable units in the entire NFL (easily top-3 in the NFC).
It starts on the defensive line, starring Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, and while it certainly doesn't stop there — there are playmakers at literally every spot behind them — the fact the unit was strengthened further by the addition of Johnathan Hankins (2022) and Mazi Smith (2023).
"Shoot, I don't recall [having a defensive line] this deep," said head coach Mike McCarthy just ahead of the team's second padded practice.
One moment, coach.
I wasn't done yet helping to illustrate your point.
And then there's Osa Odighizuwa and Dorance Armstrong coming off of career-best seasons, and then there's Sam Williams preparing to take a Year 2 leap and Dante Fowler surging in his reunion with Quinn; and then there's the potential of rookie fifth-round pick Viliami "Junior" Fehoko and how good Neville Gallimore looks in camp thus far, and then there's…
OK, you get the idea.
And if you don't, trust me, opposing offenses will. Parsons looks flat-out unstoppable and any help shaded his way simply prepares the plate for Lawrence and/or the interior linemen to eat.
"I think this is the most depth I've ever had on the defensive line," McCarthy said. "I love it. We can't get enough work. This is the perfect illustration of why we're not practicing against other teams.
"The offense and defense are challenging each other at a very high level. We've gotten off to a pretty good start of that on [Monday]."
Things were incendiary yet again on Tuesday, with things getting chippy for a second consecutive day as the defense made it known, physically and verbally, that they were going to own this year's camp. Prescott and Co. had something to say about that a time or two, or three or four, in what has become a 12-round heavyweight bout between the two sides.
The only losers in this fight, however, will be all opposition to the Cowboys in 2023.