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3 Needs the Cowboys Must Address on Defense in the 2021 Offseason

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.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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  1. Discussing how to improve the Cowboy D and ignoring how pathetic the LBs were is disappointing. They need to upgrade all 3 levels of this defense. Also, why does Trystan Hill get a pass? He was horrible. He spends have the game on the ground and the other half spinning around after being blown back 5 yards. He shouldn’t be playing next year, If he is playing Our defense will be very poor regardless of whoever else is out there. We need a DC that isn’t stupid enough to play 2 LBs on early downs when we can’t stop the run. We need LBs that don’t get stuck to blocks like velcro or blocked into the secondary and make a tackle 8 yards down field. We need a DT (or 2) that can stop the run and get some penetration on run downs and pass downs. We need DEs that contain the edge – this has been a problem since RGIII. Hopefully we finally say goodbye to dead wood like Crawford who has taken the cap space of a player who should be good for years now and we refused to cut him and use his money on a better player. We need 2 -3 guys that can cover and we need to blitz more. Not sure one offseason will be enough.

    • The linebackers were not good. And I agree they need to be upgraded, but if they upgrade the interior of the Defensive line, the linebackers get better.

      Trysten Hill wasn’t great, but he was much improved and was arguably your best IDL until he got hurt. He and Gallimore will provide a nice 1-2 punch for the 3-Tech defensive tackle spot.

      Find a legit starting 1-t and have Antwaun Woods back him up and you’re cooking.

  2. Agree wholeheartedly. The middle of the D is weak. DT, LB, S. But a good running game is part of a good D. And according to many, this draft has no DT or S worthy of 1st round pick so: OT 1st round. DT 2nd round. S third round. LB compens 3rd round. RB 4th round. Why RB? Because time to cut Zeke post june 1 cut. He’s been bad for 2 seasons now but declining yrds per carry for 3 yrs (4.7/4.5/4.0). Restructure or cut. Cut J.Smith also. J.Smith second in NFL in tackles? Yes because the D is always on the field and so is he. Tackles per play he’s not so good and yards gained per tackle i suspect he’s not so good since this D was 28th in the league. Stats lie if you don’t know how to interprete them.

  3. Agree these are three big position needs. But as Jim A said the LBs were also terrible this year. In this modern era, teams employ elusive backs that catch the ball out of the backfield as well as athletic TEs who are game changing weapons. If you don’t have LBs that can match up with that, ur getting exploited, as the cowboys oftentimes were. Smith needs to go and who knows if LVE will ever be healthy again. He didn’t appear as dominant last year even when he was supposedly healthy.

    But yea the cowboys have needs at every single defensive position CB/LB/DT/Safety along with DE and OL will be the emphasis in the draft as well as free agency. Likely CB 1st rd then address the other needs with remaining picks depending on how the draft falls and where the value is.

  4. 1.pay Patrick Peterson to play free safety and tutor young DBs. He can be emergency corner
    2. Get a vet run stopper
    3. Draft Kyle Pitts … Offense will be similar to KC
    4.draft a CB in the second Rd
    5. Play Tampa 2 And play Chris westry 6-4 corner
    4.3 speed ( tutored by Peterson)
    6.get a young tackle and play Collins at LG.. he was the best pulling guard in football when he was there
    7. If your keeping the OC, cut Zeke because Kellen passes 35+ per game
    8.offense will be unstoppable and help a young defense … They will play fast because it’s a simple defense to play
    9.. hire Marvin Lewis or Kris richard

  5. Agree with all needing a LB. Covering all three levels of D, plus a needed RB and a sleeper QB.

    C Farley CB
    J Tufele DT
    P Ford SAF
    T Sermon RB
    B Browning LB
    T Vrabel OT
    P Johnson DE
    N Jones DT
    J Jobe CB
    KJ Costello QB

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