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What's Next For D-Line: Fixing The Run Defense?


FRISCO, Texas – As always, this is the uncertain time of the year.

Roughly one-third of NFL rosters turn over every offseason as each club looks for ways to improve its fortunes moving forward. The Cowboys are no different, as they'll face many tough decisions in the coming months.

With that in mind, we're evaluating each position on the roster and what choices face the front office in 2021. Today, we finish up the defensive line section:

Stronger Up The Middle?

There are a couple old adages in football. One, good defenses are built from the inside out. Two, good defense starts with stopping the run.

The Cowboys allowed the second-most rushing yards allowed in franchise history last season (2,541), and gap control at the line of scrimmage was part of the problem, with opposing offensive linemen quickly reaching second-level blocks to spring big runs. The club didn't get the production it hoped for at defensive tackle. Projected starters Gerald McCoy (released via injury waiver) and Dontari Poe (released in October) were both off the roster by midseason.

Fortifying the interior defensive line is likely a priority for new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and the Cowboys do have some promising talent from the past two drafts.

The Cowboys felt 2019 second-round pick Trysten Hill was their most improved defensive player last season before he tore his ACL in October. And 2020 third-round pick Neville Gallimore showed improvement after taking Hill's spot in the starting lineup for the final eight games. The Cowboys are hopeful both will continue to develop.

Yet, the Cowboys could use another run-stuffing, disruptive player in the rotation. The draft isn't considered particularly deep at the position, but free agency could provide further options as teams around the league look to trim salary cap space due to revenue loss from the pandemic. Seven-game starter Antwaun Woods is set to be a restricted free agent, but he provided some quality snaps down the stretch and the Cowboys would be able to match any contract offer.

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