The Dallas Cowboys’ Scouting Department is in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl this week, getting their first in-person look at many of the players that will be available to them and the rest of the NFL during the 2020 NFL Draft. The Senior Bowl gives the Cowboys front office an opportunity to sit down with players that are of interest and get to know them as a person. They’ve already done a lot of the film work, but this gives them more information as to how the player practices and what he looks like against some of the best seniors heading into the NFL Draft.
Dallas Cowboys Vice President of Player Personnel, Will McClay, spoke with the media on Wednesday and gave some insight on what the defense may look like under new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan.
Will McClay via DallasCowboys.com
This potentially marks a change in the way the Cowboys view the defensive tackle position.
Under Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard, the Cowboys generally shopped in the clearance section for their defensive tackles. They’ve spent a premium pick on a defensive tackle only twice since 2010, despite getting average to below-average production from the position. Trysten Hill (2nd round, 2019) and Maliek Collins (3rd round, 2016) were the only defensive tackles drafted in the first three rounds of the draft under Rod Marinelli as Defensive Coordinator. They haven’t spent a first round pick on a defensive tackle since 1991 when they selected Russell Maryland.
They’ve been very good at finding the diamonds in the rough, but haven’t been willing to invest in the free-agent market or with a first-round pick to find a potentially elite player in the middle of the defense. The preference was placed on low-cost players that could penetrate and get pressure on the quarterback. Obviously, in recent years, that’s had a negative effect on the way the Cowboys play the run.
With a change in the defensive coaching staff comes a change in the way they value certain positions. And it sounds like Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan has Will McClay and his staff on the hunt for some guys who can play in the middle.
One area the Dallas Cowboys have to improve in 2020 is in stopping the run. The Cowboys were 11th in the NFL in total rushing yards allowed at 103.5 per game. However, they also allowed the 10th highest expected points added in the running game at 25.1 points. The Cowboys defense only saw 407 rushing attempts in 2019, which was 20th in the NFL. Teams were very efficient running the ball against the Dallas Cowboys and would have gained more yards on the ground with more opportunities.
The NFL Draft is still more than three months away, but we’re already getting a glimpse of what this coaching staff and personnel department will be looking for. They have several areas to upgrade in free agency and the draft and if they want to take a step forward in 2020, they have to hit on those acquisitions. With Maliek Collins, Christian Covington and Antwaun Woods slated to be free agents in 2020, the Cowboys have some serious work to do to retool the interior of the Cowboys defensive line and it appears that they may be ready to spend to improve the middle.