Dallas Cowboys new coaching staff making takeaways a priority

One area the Dallas Cowboys have struggled in recent years is creating turnovers. That’s apparently a priority for the team’s new coaching staff.

In 2019, the Dallas Cowboys defense was one of the worst in the NFL when it came to interceptions. The Cowboys, as a whole, recorded just seven picks all of last season which tied them with two other teams for dead last.

The secondary in Dallas was responsible for only five of those interceptions, with both safety Xavier Woods and cornerback Jourdan Lewis recording two each. Fellow corner Chidobe Awuzie had one pick, while linebackers Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee were responsible for the rest.

In total, the Cowboys defense racked up just 17 total takeaways in 2019, comprised of seven interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. That ranked Dallas tied for 27th last season.

In fact, the Cowboys defense has struggled to nab interceptions for years. Dallas has never ranked higher than 27th in total picks since 2015 as creating turnovers has been a long-lasting issue for America’s Team.

But the hiring of Mike McCarthy as head coach and Mike Nolan as his defensive coordinator should give fans hope that this trend might actually change in 2020.

According to Jon Machota of The Athletic, here’s what Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said about the team’s new coaching staff and how taking the ball away on defense has been become a priority.

“I certainly know that’s a goal for this staff. That’s a big part of it for [McCarthy and Nolan)]. And certainly that resonated well with Jerry [Jones] and myself.”

This is certainly a don’t believe it til you see it-type situation. In McCarthy’s final season as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers back in 2018, his defense was only able to come away with seven total interceptions themselves, which was tied for the second-lowest that year. But hope might be found in his new defensive staff.

During his last stint as an NFL defensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons from 2012-2014, Nolan’s defenses came away with a total of 46 interceptions, averaging more than 15 picks a season. That’s more than double what the Cowboys defense recorded in 2019.

Texas A&M cornerbacks coach Maurice Linguist has been hired as part of the Cowboys staff, presumably to help the secondary. This could mean good things for sixth-round rookie safety Donovan Wilson, who played for Linguist in college.

Wilson racked up three interceptions in four preseason contests last year but was limited to just 16 defensive snaps total in the regular season, contributing mostly on special teams.

McCarthy has also hired Al Harris, a former two-time Pro Bowl cornerback who played a total of 14 seasons in the NFL. Harris played for the Packers from 2003-2010, the last five years of which were spent with McCarthy as head coach.

Harris went on to become a coaching intern for the Miami Dolphins in 2012 under then-head coach Joe Philbin, who has now been hired to become the Cowboys new offensive line coach. Harris went on to work as an assistant defensive backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs for six seasons.

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The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff has almost been entirely remade this offseason. Perhaps this new injection of energy and ideas will be enough to spark this Dallas defense into finally creating more takeaways.