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DC Mike Nolan’s Background Should Help Cowboys’ Young LB Core

Cowboys’ young LBs should be excited about their new defensive coordinator.

Under normal circumstances we would be much more informed at this point in the year about what’s going on with the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately, thanks to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic we are basically left grasping at straws due to all of the unknowns right now surrounding the Cowboys. One such unknown is new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan.

Despite being hired months ago by Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys, Mike Nolan is one of the biggest unknowns at this point in time. If you’re like me, you’ve probably done a little research to know that he’s 61 years old and has nearly 40 years of coaching experience, however, that’s pretty basic information that doesn’t tell us much.

In order to try to get a better understanding of exactly what Mike Nolan is bringing to the table as the Dallas Cowboys new DC I decided to dig a little deeper. I believe everybody leaves tracks, but reading the signs aren’t always easy. Mike Nolan must have walked in wet cement, because reading his signs are clear as day.

Minus the one year as a wide receivers coach with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, Mike Nolan has spent his 40 years in coaching on the defensive side of the ball. The majority of that time has been as a linebackers coach, most recently with the New Orleans Saints (2017-2019). That background should make Jaylon Smith and company really excited.

Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch
Dallas Cowboys LBs Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch

Thanks to Michael Gehlken, there’s already some speculation a new role for Jaylon Smith could be in order. Normally I would file that away with the other unconfirmed rumors and did for a while, but Smith himself might have inadvertently confirmed he could be used differently in Mike Nolan’s scheme in a recent interview with Jane Slater and Bobby Belt on The ‘Boys and Girl podcast.

“Really just some added tools for myself, man,” Smith said. “Being able to showcase my versatility, you know being able to run sideline-to-sideline, being able to rush the passer. I’m just looking forward to being able to showcase all of my talents. These guys are putting everyone in the right position, so all I could be is thankful.”

This is certainly exciting news. Under former DC Rod Marinelli, Jaylon Smith probably didn’t get to showcase his versatility much as a traditional middle linebacker. We could see him used much like he was during his time at Notre Dame now that Mike Nolan is running the show. We could also see the Cowboys other LBs utilized a little differently.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really excited to see how all of this impacts Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Neither probably played up to their standards last season, however, with someone with a LB background like Mike Nolan to coach them up I think we could see them have their best season yet in 2020.

What do you think?

Brian Martin

Written by Brian Martin

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.


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  1. Didn’t McCarthy once hire a very similarly experienced DC in Dom Capers? Didn’t he let Capers pretty much design and run the defense as Capers desired? I suspect he’ll give Nolan the same reigns and not be an interference on that side of the ball. Therefore, Nolan’s history should prove to be an accurate representation of what to expect. I think McCarthy will work far more closely with the offense and as a mentor to Kellen Moore.

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