It’s no secret that the Dallas Cowboys will be looking to add defensive players in the NFL Draft which will commence in nine days. The Cowboys were one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2020. They’re a team that is ready to contend on the offensive side of the ball, but need some help from the defense so they’re not having to score 40 points every week to try and win games.
Speaking to the K&C Masterpiece on 105.3 The Fan yesterday, Stephen Jones was asked if they are looking to add secondary help or defensive help. Jones answered, “I think defensively it's across the board.”
About the defensive line Jones said, “You can't ever have enough defensive linemen.”
Aldon Smith left in free agency. The interior of the Cowboys’ defensive line is unproven, especially at the 3-technique. Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore have shown flashes but neither have shown they can be consistent enough to be a starter in the NFL. At the 1-technique the Cowboys have solid options in Brent Urban, Antwaun Woods, and Carlos Watkins, but nobody who is a long-term answer at the position.
On the secondary Jones said:
“Certainly we lost Chidobe [Awuzie] in free agency. So, it's obviously our ongoing annual need for safety, which never seems to end in terms of draft pick resource or dollar resource. We just — it's been at the low end of the totem pole there.”
At the safety position, Jones later explained that the team has tried to acquire safeties in the past through the draft or through trade, but have either gone in a different direction in the draft or the trade never materialized. Specifically, he brought up Earl Thomas who the Cowboys attempted to trade for during the 2018 NFL Draft. Then in the 2019 offseason, the Cowboys attempted to woo Thomas who instead opted for a bigger contract with the Baltimore Ravens.
There have been whispers that the Cowboys are interested in Oregon Safety Jevon Holland. He may not step in and be a starter on day one, but his athleticism, range, and playmaking ability would get him on the field sooner rather than later.
Jones mentioned the loss of Chidobe Awuzie. While the player isn’t a huge loss, the void created by the departure is pretty big. Awuzie played a ton of snaps for this team in his tenure with the Cowboys.
Cornerback is still the most glaring need for 2021. As it stands now, the Cowboys would start Jourdan Lewis or Anthony Brown on the opposite side of Trevon Diggs if they’re unable to add a top 50 cornerback in the draft. Patrick Surtain or Jaycee Horn at 10 or Greg Newsome around 20 in a trade back or trade up make a lot of sense.
On the linebacker position:
“But then of course with the game becoming such a game that's played in space, you can't have enough of those linebackers who can cover and, as I mentioned, these tight ends are really create challenges, these long, athletic tight ends. And you certainly, if you get opportunities to find guys who can help. Certainly Jaylon [Smith] and Leighton [Vander Esch] are athletic and long. And you can't ever have enough of those guys either. So, I really don't know that we have necessarily say, ‘hey, it's got to be skilled or the front.”
The Cowboys have been linked to the linebacker position at both 10 and 44. Word is they really like Zaven Collins out of Tulsa. With the decline in play seen from Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys could certainly add a linebacker or two in this draft.
If the Cowboys don’t pick up Vander Esch’s fifth year option for 2022, he’ll be a free agent next spring. Though it was widely speculated that the Cowboys might move on from Jaylon Smith this offseason next offseason it become even more palatable to release him if his play doesn’t improve.
Ultimately, it comes down to adding good players. The Cowboys need help at every level of the defense. They have more urgent needs at cornerback and defensive tackle, but looking to 2021 and beyond, the Cowboys need to find good defensive players throughout the draft. And at the same time, they can’t ignore the offensive side of the ball just because they NEED defense.
“But I think defensively we have to get better. Certainly that's one of the goals in this draft is to improve defensively, and, as you said, if the right guy presents himself, not unlike CeeDee [Lamb] did last year, you just got to be in a situation where he's by far the best player left on the board, then you've got to have confidence that you can make that selection.”
There are no guarantees in the NFL Draft and teams have to keep and open mind. However, much like the 2017 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys’ goal for this draft is to get better defensively. With 10 picks in this year’s NFL Draft, Stephen Jones, Jerry Jones, and Will McClay will have a great opportunity to improve the defense.