The Dallas Cowboys came into the 2021 offseason with the 6th worst defense in 2020. The Cowboys gave up 473 points last year and over 6,000 total yards. It was safe to say going into the draft and Free Agency the Cowboys needed to improve their defense. Surprisingly, this is exactly what the Cowboys did, they hired former Atlanta Hawks head coach Dan Quinn a Defensive Coordinator and with eight of their eleven picks in the draft all going on the defensive side of the ball.
Sitting at number 10 in the first round the Cowboys traded with conference foe Philadelphia Eagles, moving back to number 12. At 12 the Cowboys drafted Linebacker Micah Parsons out of Penn State University. Micah Parsons was previously a Defensive End that converted to Linebacker, he is a natural pass rusher, but he may struggle in pass coverage. It’ll be interesting to see how Dan Quinn utilizes Parsons, he could be moved all around and provide lots of versatility to the scheme for the Cowboys. He could certainly be the focal point of the defense but for Parsons to be effective, he will need good cornerback play behind him.
With the CB spot a known sore spot for the Cowboys, and the top 2 CB’s going prior to the Cowboys pick in round 1, they waited until the second-round drafting Kelvin Joseph out of Kentucky. Joseph has the physical make up to be a great CB, he has great size and length along with great ability to high point the football. While Joseph has the ability to be a great CB he only played 9 full games as a CB. With the lack of experience, Joseph could be slow to groom, and has shown he can be beat by good route running. Look for Joseph to lean on guys like Trevon Diggs, and Keanu Neal who can hopefully help him grow into his role.
Round 3 – 3 Picks
Continuing the trend of bolstering the defense, in round 3 at pick 75 the Cowboys drafted Defensive Tackle Osa Odighizuwa out of UCLA. Odighizuwa has a great motor and loves to get after the quarterback. He is versatile and due to his size can play any position along the defensive line. Odighizuwa is quick of the snap and does not stop until he gets to the ball. He was all conference first team in 2020 playing only seven games. Odighizuwa is not phased by the bright lights, and rarely makes big mistakes. He is a nice acquisition for the Cowboys.
Just nine picks later the Cowboys drafted another piece for the defensive line with Defensive End Chauncey Golston out of Iowa. Golston added 40lbs of muscle during his tenor at Iowa, which has allowed him to develop nicely into a power rusher. But, where Golston really flourishes is in his ability to get into the B Gap and clog this hole. While he is still a little light, and doesn’t play with a ton of strength he can certainly help with slowing the run.
With their final pick in round 3 the Cowboys went back to the Cornerback position taking, Nahshon Wright out of Oregon State. Wright has a high football IQ, and great instincts that helped him lead the Beavers in interceptions over the last two years. But with this being said, Wright lacks in speed, and size. If he gets beat he is unable to recover. He needs to mature a bit, add some weight and speed but he is some one to watch in the coming years for the Cowboys he has a lot of potential.
In my opinion the best pick for the Dallas Cowboys came in round 4 when they took Jabril Cox out of LSU. After tearing his ACL in his Junior year of High School Cox was not a marquee recruit, but as we saw with his transition from North Dakota St. to LSU Cox was an SEC linebacker. He has great speed, and attacks the ball. He has a fantastic motor, and one of the better linebackers in coverage. He should certainly find the field early and often for the Cowboys. He has a great ability to fill the void left by retired Sean Lee. Jabril Cox is a physical specimen and has all the intangibles to be a stud in the NFL.
The Cowboys then added Offensive Tackle Josh Ball out of Marshal to conclude their 4th round. Moving into the 5th round the Cowboys added Wide Receiver Simi Fehoko out of Stanford, a bit of a surprising pick as the Cowboys have so much talent and depth at this position already.
Moving into the 6th round with two picks, the Cowboys drafted Defensive Tackle Quinton Bohanna out of Kentucky and Cornerback Israel Mukuamu out of South Carolina. Lastly in the 7th round the Cowboys concluded their draft with Guard Matt Faniok out of Nebraska.
The draft was solid for the Cowboys and they addressed positions of need very well. Although there is some question of the ability of all they players brought in, the Cowboys will be able to groom these picks and mold them into the new scheme Dan Quinn brings.
During Free Agency the Cowboys also made a nice splash bringing in Safety Keanu Neal who played under Quinn with Atlanta. Neal is a do it all safety who can play numerous positions; deep safety, linebacker, slot CB, and outside CB. He will be a great addition to the Cowboys and his versatility will bode well for a Cowboys defense that always seems to be dealing with injuries.
I believe the Cowboys added some nice pieces to this struggling defense, but it will take time for this defense to be dominate. With a new defensive coordinator comes a new scheme, along with many new faces, and the departure of the cornerstone Sean Lee. The Cowboys do catch a break with the second easiest schedule in the league this year. I like the Cowboys to contest for the NFC East Division. Cowboys go 10-7 and finally win the NFC East.
Off-Season Grade – B-
While the Cowboys did address their areas of need, they players brought in have many areas to improve. I think these pieces can be good for the Cowboys, but I am not anticipated a major leap this year. One bright spot for Cowboys fans is locking up Dak Prescott who was having a career year before his devastating injury last year. I expect another big year for Dak moving forward.