With the Dallas Cowboys lacking size in the interior of their defensive line, they were able to add two “big” players this offseason.
The Dallas Cowboys are adding defensive tackles Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy in free agency. Both are big-name NFL veterans who spent last season with the Carolina Panthers. Both players made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014 as dominant threats on the defensive line.
Former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera who is now with the Washington Redskins, brought both McCoy and Poe to Carolina in 2019, forming what should have been a dominant presence on the defensive line. However, the Panthers finished 29th in team run defense in the 2019 season. They allowed a whopping 143.5 rushing yards per game to opponents last season.
This brings the question as to why Cowboy’s head coach Mike McCarthy and Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Nolan would choose to bring the two big men to Dallas. While both players have had a respective impact during their careers, they both appear to be on the back end of their professional careers.
A team’s scheme can have a tremendous impact on a player’s success. For example, look at former Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr. In his two seasons in Dallas without former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli (2012-2013), he had six interceptions. During Rod Marinelli’s tenure as a defensive coordinator for the Cowboys, Carr was only able to force one interception in the 2014-2016 seasons. Following this, Carr Joined the Baltimore Ravens and secured six interceptions in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Carr was hindered in producing takeaways in Marinelli’s conservative defense, as was the rest of the team during his tenure as defensive coordinator. This led to a new head coach, McCarthy, to go in a new direction with a more aggressive coordinator in Mike Nolan. McCarthy and Nolan will look to get the best out of McCoy and Poe in the 2020 season.
The Panthers chose to run a 3-4 defensive scheme in 2019, putting McCoy, Poe, and Kawann Short on the defensive line with two standing linebackers on both edges of the line. This proved not to be effective, as the team did not have enough speed to slow down effective running backs. It certainly does not help that Poe was only able to start in 10 games for Carolina last season due to injury.
With the Cowboys supposedly still committed to running a 4-3 scheme under Nolan, the Cowboys would plan to use Poe and McCoy in the interior of the defensive line, with premier pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge, along with defensive end Robert Quinn’s eventual replacement.
Adding two big defensive linemen in the middle, 641 pounds combined to be exact, could be very beneficial for the Cowboys. Putting effective edge rushers who can stop the run like Lawrence can, will be a luxury Poe and McCoy can enjoy in Dallas that they could not in Carolina. For a team that needed support in the middle of their defensive line, the Cowboys were able to fill their void this free agency.