When the Dallas Cowboys made the move to hire Mike Nolan to be their defensive coordinator, speculation began that the Cowboys would be switching to a 3-4 defense. Though he coordinated 4-3 defenses in Atlanta, Nolan had a lot of success in San Francisco and Baltimore running base 3-4 defenses.
Speaking to Jori Epstein of USA Today, former Dallas Cowboys great, and 3-4 OLB, DeMarcus Ware spoke about what the Cowboys might show in Mike Nolan's defense.
. @DeMarcusWare divulges his thoughts on what the Cowboys defense might look like in 2020 to @JoriEpstein. pic.twitter.com/xAyPy3IVh0
DeMarcus Ware said:
“Now you've got a whole new guy coming in and the 3-4 defense is all predicated in getting pressure, pushing the pocket up the middle, stopping the run, bringing those outside linebackers to create those turnovers. That's why DeMarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory they can excel in this defense, because you might get a tight end. You might have to be on a running back because there's five guys rushing now instead of four but they can interchange each one of those guys, and that's what makes it hard on those offenses because they can't block you.”
DeMarcus Ware via Jori Epstein of USA Today
In comments made to the media after being hired, Nolan mentioned that the Cowboys want to be able to show multiple looks in their front seven. The goal is pressure, regardless of personnel or front.
So that means, we'll see the Cowboys line up in both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts. As the NFL has become more of a passing league, the true base defense is nickel defense.
Teams are in 11-personnel nearly 70% of the time, necessitating five defensive backs in most situations.
The Cowboys have done a ton of work to overhaul their defense this offseason adding three defensive tackles and three edge rushers. Players like Dontari Poe, a true nose tackle, and Aldon Smith, a 3-4 EDGE, give the Cowboys the flexibility to show a variety of defensive fronts.
Ware also mentioned that DeMarcus Lawrence has reached out to get some tips on how to play that outside linebacker and rush as a stand up EDGE rusher.
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to be just fine if he has to stand up and play as an outside linebacker, even if he's never done it, because the Cowboys are going to have him rushing the quarterback far more often than dropping into coverage. Lawrence reaching out to Ware for insight on how to rush from a two-point stance reveals that the Cowboys are going to play some 3-4, but they'll allow Lawrence to rush from his three-point stance as well, because he's proven incredibly effective rushing from a three-point stance throughout his career.
While a lot of Ware's comments focus on the benefit of playing a 3-4 defense, he does mention there at the end of the clip that the hybrid defense will be good for the Cowboys cause it will predicate on getting pressure.
Pressure is the name of the game for the Dallas Cowboys moving forward. Head Coach Mike McCarthy has even talked about the idea of having a designated rusher and having five or six guys that can get after the quarterback.
Newcomers Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Neville Gallimore, Aldon Smith, and Bradlee Anae added to DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Tyrone Crawford, and Jaylon Smith give the Cowboys a deep group of players that can put pressure on the quarterback.
Putting pressure on the quarterback is the key to Mike Nolan's defense. With the additions they've made, the Dallas Cowboys look ready to do just that.