After years of ignoring its importance during the Jason Garrett era, the Dallas Cowboys made it a point to address the defensive tackle position this offseason. They didn’t just bring in anybody though, but rather a couple of guys with productive careers.
Veteran Gerald McCoy is an instant upgrade over the departed Maliek Collins at the 3-tech. The six-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro has 59.5 sacks over his ten-year career, including eight consecutive seasons with at least five sacks. Dontari Poe, a former two-time Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro himself will take over 1-tech duties beside McCoy, much like he did when they were teammates last season with the Carolina Panthers.
These two additions were key because not only will the Cowboys have better play against the run, an area they struggled with at times last season, but also against the pass. The more effective they are getting pressure up the middle will force quarterbacks out of the pocket, making them sitting ducks for edge rushers and blitzing linebackers.
Speaking of those two positions, let’s dive into how McCoy and Poe can potentially impact them.
DeMarcus Lawrence is still one of the best defensive ends in football despite a drop in sacks in 2019. McCoy and Poe continuously being forces pressuring the quarterback up the middle will make force double teams inside and create more one-on-one opportunities for Lawrence. What that also does is assist whoever is playing opposite Lawrence whether it be Aldon Smith, Randy Gregory, Tyrone Crawford, or rookie Bradlee Anae. If Lawrence is causing havoc and creating double teams and forcing offenses to bring in running backs to chip him it can create more one-on-one opportunities on the other side, potentially making this front four extremely difficult to deal with.
McCoy and Poe being productive will not only help the outside pass rush but the linebacker position as well because it won’t allow offensive linemen to reach the second level and put a body on Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, or Sean Lee and create massive running lanes. Also, it lets your linebackers roam freely and make plays, and for a group that possesses three guys who play sideline to sideline, it has the potential to work wonders.
Lastly, this impacts the secondary as well. Interior pressure from McCoy and Poe coupled with Lawrence and others on the outside will force the ball out of quarterbacks’ hands quicker and seemingly cut down on the amount of time the secondary will have to cover. What this also does is it allows defensive coordinators to get creative in their looks and take some chances to create turnovers, something the Cowboys have lacked on defense for a while. The Cowboys have several ball hawks at cornerback in Jourdan Lewis and rookies Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson who could really take advantage of this type of pressure at the line of scrimmage.
It all starts in the trenches in the game of football. McCoy and Poe have a chance to really impact all three levels of this defense and get it back to the form it played in 2018 or even better.