The Dallas Cowboys had very high expectations placed upon them after a successful NFL Draft back in April. Unfortunately for America’s Team, the 2020 season has been a complete disaster, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Although they’ve improved over the last few weeks, they still rank 23rd in yards (381.6), 31st in rushing yards (157.0), and 32nd in points (32.2) per game.
Michael Irvin joined Shan and RJ on 105.3 The Fan last week to talk about the current state of the Cowboys. As it stands right now, Dallas would have the third pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. When asked what he felt the Cowboys should do if they stay at their current draft position, the Hall of Famer had this to say.
“Game-changers. I take game-changers at No. 3,” Irvin said. “If I’ve got a Myles Garrett hanging around. Game-changer! I’m taking him at No. 3. If I don’t have a Myles Garrett, I still need a game-changer on defense. I’ve seen some mock drafts where they have the Cowboys drafting this tight end, who’s supposed to be a very good tight end. But, that’s not a game-changer in the Cowboys’ game. You need a game-changer on defense, now. Somebody that’s going to get to the quarterback or somebody on the back end who stops the quarterback. … I need a game-changer at No. 3, or I am moving back.”
The Cowboys tried in free agency to acquire talent to impact their defense, but not one of their moves panned out. Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe were added to bolster the interior of the Cowboys defensive line. The former suffered and season-ending quadriceps injury and was released in August, while the latter underperformed and had weight issues and was let go in October. Also, the Cowboys signed veteran Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to pair with Xavier Woods but the former All-Pro was released just before the start of the season after being passed on the depth chart by Darian Thompson.
As mentioned earlier, the Cowboys had a very good 2020 NFL Draft, which included a couple of young studs on defense. Cornerback Trevon Diggs was taken at 51 in the second round. After some early struggles, Diggs had his best stretch of the season from Week 5 through Week 9. He registered 22 tackles, eight passes defended, and two interceptions (both vs the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8). Unfortunately, he suffered a broken foot vs the Pittsburgh Steelers and is out for the next 4-6 weeks and possibly the rest of the season.
The Cowboys also found a diamond in the rough in the third round in the form of Defensive Tackle Neville Gallimore. After only 20 snaps in the first four games, Gallimore has at least 22 in four of the last five. His best performance came in his second career start in Week 9 vs the Steelers. He was graded as one of the best interior defensive linemen according to Pro Football Focus in terms of run defense grade, run stops, and run stop percentage.
Two potential impactful defensive players for the Cowboys from the draft are still waiting to get their shot. Defensive Back Reggie Robinson was taken in the fourth round. He showed excellent versatility during his days at Tulsa playing both cornerback or safety but hasn’t taken a single defensive snap this season. In the fifth round, they took Edge Rusher Bradlee Anae, but the former two-time First-team All-Pac-12 selection and Morris Trophy winner has only logged six defensive snaps himself.
Who knows what direction the Cowboys will go early in the 2021 NFL Draft. They don’t just need more impactful players on defense they also need help on the offensive line. However, if defense is the way they go, they’d be smart to take the advice of Irvin and add more firepower to a defense that has quite a bit of young talent already.