The 2020 season for the Dallas Cowboys was nothing short of a disaster. Nothing went well for them. The Offense suffered injuries to their most important player and two of his blockers and the defense struggled to adjust to Mike Nolan’s two-gap run defense. At times it felt like it was a miracle that they got to six wins trotting out the quarterbacks they had to play and the defense’s inability to stop anyone.
It hasn’t taken long for Quinn to make an impact from the personnel side of things. He’s remaking this defense as he sees fit.
Bringing in Dan Quinn, you knew there’d be changes on the defensive side of the ball. Of course, the scheme would revert back to the cover-3, 1-gap system they ran under Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard. In that system, they prioritized length in the secondary and penetrating ability along the defensive line.
Dan Quinn also wants there to be an element f speed and nastiness to this defense. That’s why after the first run of free agents went off the board, the Cowboys made aggressive plays to bring in former players of their new defensive coordinator Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee. Neal brings speed and physicality to the defense and can help the Cowboys and it sounds like he’ll play linebacker for Quinn. Kazee’s length and playmaking ability at the safety position will help the Cowboys make plays on the ball when there are plays to be made.
Though Jayron Kearse isn’t a former Dan Quinn player, defensive assistant George Edwards has experience with Kearse from their time together in Minnesota. Without a doubt, his length is a fit for what Dan Quinn wants, but it’s likely his playstyle fits as well.
Along the defensive line, Tarell Basham’s length and first-step are traits that fit perfectly in a Seattle-type defense. He hasn’t been as productive but reminds you of Michael Bennett, who spent half a season with the Cowboys in 2019.
But the Dallas Cowboys aren’t done adding to this defense. There is interest in adding former Seahawks Linebacker KJ Wright. And prior to his signing with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Cowboys were “exploring” the idea of adding Defensive Tackle Jarran Reed.
Quinn has been given the credit card to go spend some money to fix a defense that was abysmal at times in 2020. Though there was a spending limit on the card, Quinn and the front office have found some pieces that should improve the defense. Only the result of the 2021 season will tell the tale of how impactful these signings were, but it’s a step in the right direction to creating a defensive unit in the image of its defensive coordinator.
Dan Quinn is looking for leadership and an attitude. They’ve brought in as many as six outside free agents for the defensive side of the ball through the first few weeks of free agency. Each of them has a chance to figure into the rotation at their respective spots. Quinn is wasting little time trying to shape his personnel to fit what he wants in his scheme. And with quite a few free agents still to consider and the NFL Draft less than a month away, the Cowboys are making good strides to fixing a defense that left a lot to be desired in 2020.