Value Defensive Tackles
The perception around Rod Marinelli has been he is a guru when it comes to molding defensive line talent. However, since his arrival in 2014, Dallas has finished, 28th, 25th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 19th in total sacks on the year.
In 2016, when they finished 13th in the league with 36 sacks, their defensive tackles combined for 17 sacks on the year. Maliek Collins led the way with five, while David Irving had four. In 2017, the pair combined for 9.5 sacks as Dallas finished 15th overall.
The aching need at the position showed this year with the absence of Antwaun Woods throughout the year and second-round pick Trysten Hill struggling to make the gameday roster.
In comparison, the Steelers, Panthers and Saints were the top three leaders in sacks this season. Steelers had two DTs combine for 14 sacks, Panthers top two DTS combined for 11 and the Saints DTs combined for 9. Dallas top two DTs registered just five.
“Next Man Up” Mentality
Whether it’s a coaching philosophy or words this team has lived by, it needs to be left in 2019. In too many instances we’ve seen this approach hinder Dallas from performing at an optimal level. The most glaring example occurred at the end of Dallas’ Week 16 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
With the season on the line, the Cowboys opted to deploy Ventell Bryant and Tavon Austin instead of Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb on a needed fourth-down conversion.
Predictably, they failed and were left watching as the Eagles essentially clinched the NFC East.
Other scenarios such as the “Chaz Green game” or Michael Bennett forcing Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence back on the field on critical third downs are situations that should not happen to enter the 2020 season.
No more “Project Players”
2 of the Cowboys’ last three drafts have fallen flat when it comes to their top draft selection. In 2017 we saw Taco Charlton be selected in hopes he would progress into a solid defensive end. We heard the body frame matched what Dallas was looking for, but he was a few levels off of where his skill set needed to be.
In last year’s draft, Dallas chose Trysten Hill with their second-round pick. Not only was he a non-factor, but he failed to make the gameday roster for a large part of his rookie year, despite playing one of the most needed positions on the team.
Rid “talented team” mantra
We heard it all year — “this team is too talented to be in this position.” Coming into this season most felt the only hole this team had was safety and consistent defensive tackle play. It may have encouraged the front office to feel comfortable drafting a “project player” when the draft board showed the available safeties were the much reasonable selections.
In the third round, Dallas selected Guard Connor McGovern who many thoughts were another pick for the future. The trend continued throughout the draft and out of the Cowboys, seven selections Tony Pollard was the only one who got meaningful playing time this season.
Not to mention, talent isn’t the only thing needed to win ball games in the NFL. After a decade of having “talented rosters,” we should know this by now.
You have to go back to 2002 to find the last time the Cowboys drafted a safety inside the 50 (Roy Williams, R1 P8). After that, the next highest draft selection they spent was a third-round pick of J.J. Wilcox.
Dallas has lacked a premium playmaker at the safety position and it stands to be the main factor in why this team continues to struggle to create turnovers.
2011 is the last time a defensive back for Dallas has recorded more than three interceptions in a season. Xavier Woods has led the team in interceptions the past two seasons but has totaled only four in that time.
Better production at that position is needed if this defense has goals of being elite.
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