OXNARD, Calif. — The Dallas Cowboys have a new defensive coordinator in Dan Quinn, which means holdover players will have to get used to a third system in as many seasons.
What Quinn has going for him that his predecessor Mike Nolan didn't have is a complete eight-week offseason program and also an enforcer from his previous team to explain what the new coordinator is looking for.
The Cowboys signed safety Damontae Kazee in free agency. The former Atlanta Falcons 2017 fifth-round pick spent 52 games with the NFC South club, starting in 34 games. Kazee's experience with Quinn gives him the ability to communicate what the new defensive coordinator is trying to accomplish with the unit.
"He has been a good resource for me behind the scenes," Quinn said. "'Hey here's what Q might mean in this.' It may not be scheme related but in a situation, in a moment, a style of play, an attitude that we want to play with, he can back me in a lot of ways. Scheme being one of them, just a style, an identity of how we want to play that would be another."
Kazee has experience with the language and terminology that Quinn uses, although Quinn says they are running a different scheme with the Cowboys than he did with the Falcons from 2015-20.
Quinn is also getting his players used to the sound of Kazee's voice and his calls, which is why he has had Kazee mic'd up for practices. The inspiration for doing so was when Hall of Fame safety John Lynch was mic'd up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.
"What we did with Kaz in that moment, we mic him up and I put his voice into every play, where you're watching it you could hear him," said Quinn. "I wouldn't say it was as good as NFL Films quality could be, they got the point that it wasn't to the standard that it could be because the standard I showed with John that was championship standard. I wanted him to know there's another place you could take your communication."
The Cowboys got off to a slow start in the 2020 season with just three takeaways through the first seven games. Dallas' defense was also porous as they surrendered over 500 yards in each of those games, including 709 in a Week 4 loss against the Cleveland Browns.
Communication was a big problem for the Cowboys in the first half of 2020. If Dallas – with Kazee's leadership at comms – can get their communication settled to start the season, the Cowboys’ work-in-progress defense should be able to start stronger and complement their explosive offense.
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