The Dallas Cowboys defense left a lot to be desired in 2020. They were one of the worst teams against the run all season long, and their pass defense wasn’t much better. Though they weren’t the worst in the NFL, they were a big reason the team got off to a 2-7 start.
They allowed half of their opponents to score 30 or more points on the year, and they held just two teams under 20 points last season. It was bad, and changes are coming.
Much is still to be determined about the style of defense the Dallas Cowboys will play as they begin searching for a new defensive coordinator. However, without even knowing who that will be, there are still areas that the Cowboys must address on the defensive side of the football.
1. 1-Technique Defensive Tackle
The Dallas Cowboys need a run stuffer. If this feels redundant, it’s because, for several years now, the Cowboys have struggled up front to stop the run. 2020 was no different. The Cowboys allowed the second-most rushing yards and had the second-worst defensive expected points added against the run. The Houston Texans were the only team that was worse.
The Cowboys will likely bring back Antwaun Woods to play alongside a rotation of Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore at the 3-technique defensive tackle spots. However, they need a guy who can legitimately plug the middle of the line of scrimmage and make plays on the ball carrier. I’m not saying they have to get Aaron Donald, but they have to find a guy who can do it better than Dontari Poe did and is an upgrade to Woods.
2. Find a Playmaker to Pair with Donovan Wilson
Speaking of upgrading another position held by a player named Woods, the Cowboys need to find a free safety that is better than Xavier Woods. I know he’s played a lot of snaps for the Cowboys since coming into the NFL in 2017, but his 2020 left a lot to be desired.
The Cowboys did find a safety that could make plays for them regularly in Donovan Wilson. He’ll likely be the starter at the Cowboys’ strong safety or box safety spot when they break camp in 2021.
As good as Wilson has been, he has limitations playing the deep safety role in a defense. He’s better in the box, so the Cowboys need to find a player with range who can patrol the deep middle of the defense. This will allow Wilson to do what he does best within 10-15 yards of the line of scrimmage.
3. Revamp the Cornerback Room
Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are set to be free agents this offseason, and neither has done enough in their four-year career to be concerned about losing to another team. However, if they do find themselves with a new logo on their helmet, they’ll be taking a lot of experience, snaps, and versatility along with them.
The Cowboys likely bring one of them back on a one to two-year deal to bridge the gap between them and a 2021 rookie cornerback. However, it’s just as likely that they’re on their way out the door. This means the Cowboys have to find a starter at cornerback to play opposite of Trevon Diggs and a third or fourth cornerback, whichever way you place Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis on the depth chart.
They’ve got Maurice Canady coming back in 2021 after opting out of 2020 due to COVID-19, but he’s not a starter. He’s probably your third or fourth corner, but you’d like to have someone in the building to compete with him and Anthony Brown for snaps in nickel sets.