FRISCO, Texas — Defense, defense, defense. And then defense twice more.
"The way it fell was defense, for us," owner Jerry Jones said. "We're not through yet. But as it turns out, we couldn't be more pleased that the emphasis of the draft and the side of the ball that we're addressing in the draft, is workout out for us that's it's our defensive players."
The Cowboys defense in 2020 was horrid. They gave up the fifth-most points per game in the league, at 29.6. They were the worst in the league at goal-to-go defense, giving up a touchdown on 90.0% of occasions. And they ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing defense.
"Unfortunately, we didn't need to send any messages," Jones said. "It was pretty well known where we might need to be doing some addressing."
Micah Parsons was the selection on night one, as the Cowboys traded back from 10 to 12, added the 84th pick in the draft in a trade with the Eagles, and then took Parsons. And they continued the focus on Friday, taking four more defensive players over the course of the second and third rounds.
Dallas had their two cornerback targets vanish right in front of their eyes in the first round, so that became the clear focus of day two. Dallas took two corners among their four picks on Friday, beginning with Kentucky product Kelvin Joseph, who Dallas will pair with last year's second-round pick, Trevon Diggs.
“I feel like we’re fixing to do a lot of damage," Joseph said of he and Diggs. "We’re both physical against tall receivers, and we’re smart. We’re playmakers, so we’re just going to put our techniques together and learn from each other, and aim for success as we go."
With their first pick in the third round, the Cowboys added a defensive lineman, in Osa Odighizuwa out of UCLA, at pick No. 75. Odighizuwa was a first-team All Pac 12 performer with the Bruins and recorded four sacks in just seven games in 2020.
“I feel like this is a scheme that I will benefit from being in, and it is a scheme that let me use my tools and my skillset to the best of my abilities," Odighizuwa said. "They are a vertical attack, knockback, reset the line of scrimmage, get up the field and be in the backfield, and that is the style that I like to play with as well. That is a great fit for me, and it is a defensive scheme that I can come in and thrive in.”
Then with the 84th pick, Dallas got another defensive lineman, adding Chauncey Golston from Iowa. Golston is a very versatile player, who can slide up and down the defensive line, playing multiple different techniques and positions. In many ways, the Cowboys replaced Tyrone Crawford with Tyrone Crawford, with this pick.
“Osa and Chauncey both bring different dimensions," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "You look at the length. Osa gives us the pass rush. He can play the three, the four, the five, and even go further inside in some of the sub rush from the lower shade or one-technique. Golston is the power player. He will play more to our base side. He can play the three also I think he will be a power player for us in the four-I technique and the five and out to the six. Two both young studs that give us length out there, give us juice. We feel really good about our depth now in our front. I was really excited about getting both those big guys."
Finally, with the 99th pick, the Cowboys got another corner. This pick came as a bit of a surprise, as some had Oregon State cornerback Nahshon Wright as a 7th round prospect, or even an undrafted free agent. But the 6'4 corner fits what new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn wants to do, and the Cowboys grabbed him late in the 3rd.
"Nahshon Wright, love his length," McCarthy said. "I really like his path through his career, the receiver skills. Dan Quinn was up at the Oregon State workout. We love the tape going into it. His ability to play with length but to also go and track the ball. Some of our guys compared him to Trevon (Diggs) as far as his ability to track the football. I think both those young guys bring us two excellent players that will compete in the secondary.”
What the Cowboys did not do was select a safety. That in and of itself was enough to draw the ire of Cowboys fans. But they also didn't take kindly to what seemed like Stephen Jones poking fun at the concept. "Once again, that poor safety position missed out again," Jones said. "It never fails. We were right there thinking about it a couple of times, but it didn’t work out."
Asked whether or not the Raiders spoiled the Cowboys' plans, by taking TCU product Trevon Moehrig -- a first-round graded safety -- at No. 43, one spot ahead of Dallas, Jones said “I’m sure they think that. But as you know, cornerback was really important to us – to get a good corner in this draft. As much as we love the player that the Raiders got, we were pretty focused on getting a corner.”
Maybe they'll pick a safety on Saturday.