The Dallas Cowboys defense was historically bad last season. They allowed the most points to be scored against them (473) in franchise history. The defense also allowed 6,183 net-total yards to opposing offenses, the second-most by the team ever.
And while the defense played better in the second half of the season, their poor overall performance still led to the dismissal of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan after a single year in Dallas.
While the offensive issues were mainly due to key injuries, the Cowboys went about the business of fixing their defense this offseason. With that in mind, here are the two top reasons why the defense in Dallas will be much improved in 2021 …
Reason #1 – Dan Quinn
While hiring a fired head coach from a 4-12 Atlanta Falcons’ team who fielded the worst passing defense in the NFL last season as your new defensive coordinator doesn’t seem wise, the addition of Dan Quinn in Dallas should improve this unit.
Before helming the Falcons for just over five seasons, including taking them to a Super Bowl in 2016, Quinn was the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks for two years. During that short run, the Seahawks went to back-to-back Super Bowls, winning one.
With Quinn now leading the defense in Dallas, the hope is his scheme will be more familiar to the players than the one Nolan attempted to install in the midst of a virtual offseason caused by a worldwide pandemic last year.
Here’s how David Helman of DallasCowboys.com recently answered a mailbag question on the team’s official website asking him to sell fans on Quinn.
"“This defense isn’t going to look exactly like the ones the Cowboys ran in 2018 and 2019, but it should be fairly similar. And while the Dallas defense wasn’t elite in those seasons, it was certainly adequate … everything I’ve heard about Quinn is that he has an infectious attitude that resonates with players, similar to Kris Richard.”"
Reason #2 – A Defensive Heavy Draft Class
One of the main criticisms of Nolan’s short time in Dallas was trying to implement a complicated defense that might not have been best suited for the players he had. The Cowboys brass seemingly learned that lesson and devoted a vast majority of their draft capital on the defensive side of the ball in order to give Quinn the players he desired to run his system.
The Dallas Cowboys used eight of their 11 selections in last month’s NFL draft on defensive players. That included their first six picks, which was every selection they had in the first three rounds plus their top pick on day three.