DALLAS — One of the big hires that the Dallas Cowboys made to the coaching staff over the offseason was bringing in Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator.
The former Atlanta Falcons head coach from 2015 to 2020 will take over for Mike Nolan, who was let go at the end of a 6-10 campaign that saw the defense befuddled often and unable to implement his schemes.
Nolan, who didn't have the benefit of a full offseason program due to the complications from the COVID-19 pandemic, wasn't able to run his definitive vision of a 3-4 defense. The Cowboys were caught in limbo between a 3-4 and their old ways of running a Tampa-2 scheme with a 4-3 base.
Quinn, who was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks from 2013 to 2014, comes from that same Tampa-2 school, which means Dallas will be returning to the type of defense they ran from 2013 to 2019 in the last seven seasons of the Jason Garrett-era.
"I’ve known Dan for quite some time," Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy told reporters on March 25. "A chance to be in position to hire him is a huge asset to our football operation. Schematically, to the naked eye, in layman’s terms, I don’t think we’ll see a whole lot because I think it’s important to build off of what we did accomplish there in the second eight weeks, our ability to take the ball away. There are probably some conceptual things our players really understood and played fast. It just wasn’t in the first eight weeks. This isn’t a start over situation."
What the Cowboys are looking for with Quinn as their new defensive play-caller isn't necessarily meaner players or scheme fits. Rather, ahead of the decisions to be made at the NFL Draft, Dallas is looking for culture fits.
"I will say that different coaches bring different things that they may stress a little more," Stephen Jones told "The K&C Masterpiece" on 105.3 "The Fan" Monday. "It's kind of like making sausage. Some like the sausage spicy. Some like it a little more bland. All of that will be put in, in terms of coming up with what we ultimately decide is the best selection for the Cowboys.”
One area the Cowboys could be looking to upgrade is cornerback. Dallas lost former 2017 second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie in the offseason to the Cincinnati Bengals. While Awuzie's three-year contract may help the Cowboys in the compensatory formula for the 2022 NFL draft, they nonetheless have a need to provide depth behind Jourdan Lewis, Anthony Brown, and Trevon Diggs.
Ultimately, the battles in offseason workouts and training camp will determine who has the right ingredients for the sausage.
Said Jones: "A guy may have a little edge, as you say, may be a better skill set by a little bit. But then the guy below him may overcome some of that because of his football character or he's healthier or because he comes with some characteristics that we like. All of that plays in and can make a difference."
The Cowboys have four picks in the top 100 of the draft at No. 10 (first round), No. 44 (second round), No. 75 (third round), and No. 99 (third round), which they are hoping is enough capital to bolster the defense and give Quinn the taste he needs to fix the Cowboys' defense.
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