Last season, the Dallas Cowboys defense took a step back from its top seven ranking in 2018. One of the glaring weaknesses was their inability to stop the run which constantly kept opposing offenses on the field more often than the Cowboys would have liked. The best way to address this issue was to retool on the interior of the defensive line, especially with Maliek Collins and Michael Bennett no longer on the roster.
The Cowboys wasted no time once the free agency period kicked off by adding veterans Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, who played alongside each other last season with the Carolina Panthers, as the team’s new anchors at the 1-tech and 3-tech. McCoy has been one of the more productive defensive tackles since he entered the league in 2010. He registered at least five sacks in each of the last eight seasons. It hasn’t taken long for him to get excited about the new defensive scheme in Dallas, as he expressed about a month ago.
“I talked to the coaches a little bit. (The scheme) fits me,” McCoy said. “Everything they want to do is everything I love to do. And they’re going to let me be me. They’re bringing me in to be me – get up the field, disrupt the passer, get in the backfield and make plays. That’s what I love to do and that’s what they’re going to allow me to do.”
At nearly 350 pounds, Poe is a mountain of a man with surprising speed and quickness. Not only can he plug running lanes but he can also get after the quarterback. His four sacks last season were the most since his last Pro Bowl campaign in 2014 and the third time he reached that total since 2013, and he did so in just 11 games. Currently, Poe is on the Active/PUP list as he continues to rehab from offseason quadriceps surgery. He’ll be immediately be taken off the list once he passes a physical, and with the Cowboys first padded practice not slated until mid-August, that should be an issue.
Neville Gallimore was the third piece in the Cowboys offseason overhaul of the defensive interior when he was selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. His power, speed, and relentless pursuit make him an ideal fit in a rotation with McCoy and Poe. Also, he can be moved around with his ability to play both the 1-tech and 3-tech, which is music to the ears of new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan who will implement a hybrid scheme with three and four-man fronts.
Antwaun Woods, who started 25 games over the last two seasons as the team’s starting nose tackle, is also back after signing his ERFA (Exclusive Rights Free Agent) tender earlier this week. He’ll have an uphill battle for snaps with Poe and Gallimore both expected to have significant roles, but he’s a very solid depth piece to have in your back pocket just in case an unforeseen injury occurs.
New Defensive Line Coach Jim Tomsula will now look to guide the Cowboys defensive line to dominance and could work wonders for second-year project Trysten Hill with his history of grooming less talented players. After being an area of weakness last season, the interior of the Cowboys defensive line has a great chance of being a strength in 2020.