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Dallas Cowboys’ biggest defensive pickup so far this season: Dan Quinn – Dallas Cowboys Blog



FRISCO, Texas — Let’s get the caveats out of the way: NFL free agency is not over after one week. Plenty of quality players remain. And there’s always the 2021 NFL draft as a way for a team to improve.

But it’s clear the Dallas Cowboys believe the biggest addition they have made and will make to their defense is coordinator Dan Quinn.

Additions on defense through free agency have included the Cowboys keeping cornerback Jourdan Lewis on a three-year deal worth $13.5 million, adding safety Keanu Neal (one year, max of $5 million) and signing defensive linemen Tarell Basham (two years, max $6.5 million), Carlos Watkins (one year, $1.75 million, $400,000 guaranteed) and Brent Urban (one year, $1.75 million, $500, guaranteed).

The Cowboys aren’t sure yet if Neal will play safety or linebacker, but his history with Quinn suggests he will be an upgrade on defense. Of course, many assumed the same with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and his relationship with coach Mike McCarthy last season, but the safety didn’t make the team.

Basham (3.5 sacks), Watkins (2) and Urban (2.5) all posted career highs in sacks in 2020.

Basham, who played with the New York Jets in 2020, had as many sacks as Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson had last season. Urban, with the Chicago Bears in 2020, had as many as Everson Griffen had in seven games with the Cowboys before getting traded. Watkins, the former Houston Texans defensive tackle, had as many sacks as Tyrone Crawford.

Maybe the hope is Basham becomes Benson Mayowa, who had six sacks in his first season as a free-agent pickup for the Cowboys in 2017; Watkins becomes Nick Hayden, who helped improve a run defense from 2013 to 2015; and Urban is some form of Jeremy Mincey, who had six sacks in 2014, his first season as a Cowboys’ pickup.

The Cowboys have clung to their belief that you don’t overpay in free agency. A year ago, they looked at players who had solid résumés but were on the backsides of their careers in Gerald McCoy, Clinton-Dix, Dontari Poe, Griffen and Daryl Worley, and Dallas received minimal or no production from all of them.

Call the Cowboys’ m.o. stubborn, call it being cheap, call it being pressed against the salary cap, call it whatever you want, this franchise is just not going to make a big splash in free agency.

By not looking to attempt to make a big-time signing, or some might even say a recognizable signing, it is also clear the Cowboys do not want to restructure the contracts of wide receiver Amari Cooper, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, running back Ezekiel Elliott or any other big-money player because of the future cap room that will chew up.



Stephen A. Smith is unsure about Dan Quinn as the defensive coordinator for the Cowboys as he was the coach for the Falcons’ botched onside kick recovery earlier in the season.

All of these decisions tie back to Quinn, who replaced former coordinator Mike Nolan in January.

“He’s got great experience. He is people-skilled. When you’re around him, you’ll see that,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “He’s certainly a dedicated football coach, and he’s covered a lot of ground. We have a lot of tape, so to speak, if you were talking about a player. We’ve got really a lot of information to look at to decide how he fits us. He was absolutely perfect for us in this situation to come in here. He’ll be very influential, extraordinarily influential in how we put together our personnel on defense. He’s got that kind of credibility.”

Quinn comes to the Cowboys after a 43-42 run as the Atlanta Falcons coach from 2015 to five games into the 2020 season. He earned the Falcons’ job based on his two-year run as the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. In 2013 and ’14, the Seahawks were No. 1 in yards and points allowed and played in back-to-back Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XLVIII.

The 2013 Seahawks became the first defense since the 1985 Chicago Bears to lead the league in yards allowed, points allowed and takeaways.

But in Dallas, Quinn does not have the Legion of Boom: Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas in the secondary. The Cowboys do not have Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith at linebacker. They do not have a defense line that included Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane, Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, Tony McDaniel and Red Bryant in that two-year run.

The Cowboys do not believe their defensive talent is as bad as what it appeared to be in 2020, even though as a unit, the defense allowed a franchise-record 473 points last season. Nolan’s scheme was not a fit for the players the Cowboys had on the roster. There was a lack of cohesiveness between what was happening up front and what was happening in the back seven.

Quinn will bring back a system similar to what former coordinators Rod Marinelli, Matt Eberflus and Kris Richard had from 2014 to 2019 when the defense was more reliant on all-out effort rather than superior talent or brainy X’s and O’s. The Cowboys’ defense of old was a complimentary unit to a high-powered offense, especially in 2014 and 2016.

With quarterback Dak Prescott returning to health, along with offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, the Cowboys believe their offense will be among the NFL’s best in 2021, scoring a lot of points, and with that, they won’t need the defense to be the ’85 Bears or even the ’13 and ’14 Seahawks.

Dallas just needs the defense to be competent.

“He’s going to be very special,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said of Quinn. “When we did our diligence, figuring it out with coach McCarthy and Jerry and myself, what he would be like as a defensive coordinator, it was nothing but rave reviews.

“As players, they want to lay it on the line for him. They want to play hard for him. We’ve got a lot of great players on defense, whether it’s DeMarcus Lawrence, whether it’s Leighton Vander Esch or Jaylon Smith, whether it’s a Randy Gregory, who is up-and-coming. Young guys like [Neville] Gallimore and Trysten Hill. There’s a lot to work with there, and I think he’s going to get it out of them. He’s going to put a system in where they can play hard and fast and confident in what they’re doing.”

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Linebacker Vince Williams, 31, informs Pittsburgh Steelers of his retirement after eight seasons



PITTSBURGH — On the eve of the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ first training camp practice, veteran inside linebacker Vince Williams informed the team of his retirement Wednesday.

Williams, 31, played eight seasons with the organization after being selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL draft.

Williams was initially released by the team in March because of cap constraints, but he was re-signed in April on a one-year veteran minimum deal.

Some of Williams’ teammates on defense, including T.J. Watt and Joe Haden, posted their reactions on social media later Wednesday.

The former Florida State player emerged as a team leader in Pittsburgh and started 69 of 121 career games, racking up 20.5 sacks, 479 combined tackles and 50 tackles for loss.

His role in 2021 was likely to be reduced with the emergence of Robert Spillane, who stepped up last season when former top-10 pick Devin Bush tore his ACL.

Beyond Spillane and Bush, the Steelers will likely look to rookie Buddy Johnson and safety-turned-inside linebacker Marcus Allen for depth at the position — but with a strong camp, a fully healthy Ulysees Gilbert III could also land a roster spot to round out the group.

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Jerry Jones confident Dallas Cowboys’ vaccination percentage ‘will not limit us in any way’



OXNARD, California — The Dallas Cowboys will open training camp under stricter COVID-19 protocols because they did not reach the 85% vaccination threshold, but owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he does not believe it will impact the players’ preparedness for the regular season.

“My opinion is it will absolutely will not limit us in any way, the issue of vaccination, will [not] limit us in any way as to being competitive as early as when we play Pittsburgh in the first preseason game,” Jones said Wednesday at the opening news conference of training camp. “When people say, ‘Where do you think you stand right now with vaccine relative to your team and as it pertains — this comes to my mind — the competition,’ and I think we’re one of the leaders.”

Jones indicated as few as five players have not made a pledge to get vaccinated at present, and a portion of players are “in the pipeline” toward becoming fully vaccinated, a number that would help the Cowboys reach the mark.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones noted the four weeks between the first shot and full vaccination for not being able to pinpoint an exact date. With 90 players on the roster, 77 need to be vaccinated to reach the current threshold that would ease COVID-19 restrictions at training camp.

“I don’t know that the 85% has been totally negotiated yet,” Stephen Jones said. “I think it’s a work in progress, but, yes, I do think we’ll hit that threshold and more.”

Stephen Jones credited the players for listening to the information the team made available regarding the vaccine.

“They understand that everybody was recommending the vaccine, in and around the country, but they really did their homework,” he said. “They had a lot of great questions. We provided them with lot of education, a lot about the science, and I think they were able to get their hands around it.”

The Cowboys’ coaching staff is fully vaccinated, according to Jerry Jones, but Mike McCarthy said he told his players he needed some convincing early on before getting the shot.

“Frankly, I shared my own personal experience where the facts that I was not particularly 100 percent on board with the vaccination, but through the relationships that we’re fortunate to have in the medical community, you watch, you listen. I think that same approach was given to our players,” McCarthy said. “We just wanted to make sure they had all the facts … Really, the position of where we were numbers-wise in my opinion was more about timing.”

Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin was critical of the Cowboys for not reaching the threshold, questioning their commitment to winning.

“Yeah, and it should upset them,” Irvin said. “It should upset them. Dude, you’re not thinking right. You’re not thinking right. Whatever you got, I don’t give a damn. Nothing else can be more important. You’re not going to get this (winning a Super Bowl) easily. Nothing else could be more important. Jimmy [Johnson] made that abundantly clear (during Irvin’s playing career). Nothing else is more important. And not being one of the [teams] says there’s other things to a great number of people on this team that are more important than winning championships, and that makes me worried.”

Jerry Jones said he understood Irvin’s comments.

“Michael Irvin is the best example that I know of how much will and how much body language and how much of heart and sacrifice mean to winning championships. He is that. So when he talks, I listen. I know that,” Jerry Jones said. “And I think he has a good reputation with the current group of players because of his visibility and his activity with the network where he is as an individual. So he comes with all the credibility in the world. He’s a Hall of Famer and then not only part of — because he’s a talented football player — but a big part of why he got there was that total commitment going above and beyond.

“That’s what he was trying to say. That it isn’t normal things we want from each other as players. We want everything to go above and beyond. And so I thought it was an outstanding message.”

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Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones says he’d ‘do anything’ to make Super Bowl LVI



OXNARD, Calif. — Over the years, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has not been afraid to talk about Super Bowl dreams before the start of a season. But as the franchise’s championship drought pushes past 25 years, Jones stayed away from making headlines Wednesday.

Still, making it to Super Bowl LVI is at the top of Jones’ mind.

“I’d do anything known to man to get to a Super Bowl,” Jones said. “That’s a fact.”

Jones became emotional at several points of a nearly hour-long news conference, starting with when he was asked how he intends to get the Cowboys back to a time when they won three Super Bowls in a four-year span in the 1990s.

“I’ve always had to be pragmatic at the end of the day because if not, you’ll end up on the outside looking in. You have to be real,” Jones said. “But on the other hand, I’ve never thought that we couldn’t be better or never thought that we couldn’t make it happen, even when we were not on paper or we weren’t as technically as good or sound. But I’ve never thought that, and I’ve got too many examples of how shorthanded people have knocked them out of the park before. A lot of them. In a lot of different areas.

“I really don’t know that I have any days or have any weeks where I don’t think, ‘There’s a pony in here somewhere.’ You have a lot of days where you ask yourself, ‘What are you doing in the middle of this?’ That has served me well. This isn’t an ‘I, me,’ but I’ve had a lot of people tell me, ‘You’re naive’ or say, ‘He’s naive.’ Well, it’s a beautiful world. … It’s a better world to be naive than to be skeptical and be negative all the time.”

Jones choked up when discussing former coach Jimmy Johnson’s tenure with the Cowboys now that Johnson is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month.

“Well, I just think of those great times, and Jimmy’s a great coach,” Jones said. “Ridiculous. My role here was, my job was to keep it together. It was my job. Should have had deference to something that was working good. Those are the things that come to my mind. We had a great run of it. He’s a great coach, and I’m proud to have him as a friend, and proud to have had the times that we had. We just had a great experience.”

The current Cowboys have missed the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, including a 6-10 finish in 2020 in Mike McCarthy’s first season as coach. Dak Prescott played in just five games because of a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle, but he will be a full participant when practice opens Thursday. A number of other key players also missed significant time due to injury.

With Prescott and offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and La’el Collins healthy and the addition of Dan Quinn at defensive coordinator, Jones is optimistic about 2021, if not bombastic.

“I think we got a way to make it work big for this season,” Jones said. “You put those two things together, and I think we got a chance to be a really good team.”

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