Aug 4, 2022; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn talks to players during training camp at River Ridge Playing Fields in Oxnard, California. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
Cowboys can’t ignore defense despite needing more offensively
Most of the pre-draft rumors we have heard surrounding the Cowboys have been focused around the offensive side of the football, as they should be. Dallas needs to make sure Dak Prescott doesn’t repeat last year’s performance. Still, Dan Quinn has built an impressive defense with stars at every level, but the Cowboys shouldn’t neglect adding to that side of the line of scrimmage.
According to sources around the league, the Cowboys are determined to add an offensive weapon seemingly of any kind early in this year’s draft. Texas running back Bijan Robinson has been mentioned consistently, as well as the draft’s two top tight ends: Utah’s Dalton Kincaid and Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer.
Dallas has also been rumored to be interested in adding to the defensive line and secondary in the later rounds. Cowboys fans should feel confident in the team’s ability to find studs late given the team’s track record in recent years. Guys like athletic defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa, who was drafted in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Dorance Armstrong (fourth round of 2018), and DaRon Bland (fifth round of 2022) are just a few examples of players the Cowboys have found deep in the draft that have exceeded expectations.
An area that the Cowboys should still look to improve is their run defense. Dallas’ run defense saw mild improvement following the acquisition of defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins in the middle of last season but still ranked 22nd in the league in rushing yards allowed per game.
The defensive tackle rotation is a group that has plenty of upside but hasn’t seen the kind of production to match it. Hankins, along with Quinton Bohanna, Osa Odighizuwa, and Neville Gallimore can get by, but Dallas should still look to improve along its defensive interior. Look for players like Baylor’s Siaki Ika, Michigan’s Mazi Smith, and LSU’s Jaquelin Roy to be in the discussion for Dallas in the later rounds, among others.
Keep an eye on the secondary as well as early as day two of the draft. It has been rumored that Dallas is specifically looking for a corner between rounds 2-4 and could spring for a corner or two in this range.
Trevon Diggs has proven to be a top corner, and the acquisition of veteran star Stephon Gilmore provides stability and a veteran presence for that group. But outside of DaRon Bland, Dallas doesn’t have many young bodies they can confidently throw out there in case of an injury like Anthony Brown’s in 2022.
I wouldn’t expect the Cowboys to go after a secondary piece in the first round. This is a relatively deep cornerback class, so Dallas could conceivably find great value at this position at any point in the draft. Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes and Miami’s Tyrique Stevenson were both among Dallas’ top-30 visits and could be prospects the Cowboys are targeting. Look for players like Michigan’s DJ Turner, Kansas State’s Julius Brents, and Syracuse’s Garrett Williams to be of interest as well.
The Cowboys should consider the retention of Dan Quinn a miracle after he appeared certain to find a head coaching job somewhere. While Quinn remains in Dallas, the front office should continue to find prospects that he can develop into contributors before an opportunity becomes too good for him to pass up.
Offense seems to be the top priority, but I would expect the Cowboys to be aggressive on the defensive side of the football late in the coming draft.