Can a hybrid front disguise Dallas Cowboys DT problems?

Antwaun Woods #99 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Antwaun Woods #99 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Can an ever-changing front hide the sudden depth issues the Dallas Cowboys have at 3-tech?

The Dallas Cowboys not only plan to toggle between odd and even man fronts, but they also intend on changing the way odd and even man fronts line up. As Jaylon Smith just stated, “it’s a hybrid”.

The idea of offering up new looks on defense should be music to most Cowboys’ fans ears. Rod Marinelli’s defense was about as creative as a sack of rice. There were defined roles and the players needed to fit those roles.

Mike Nolan’s defense appears to be the antonym to that – the scheme will adjust to the players in order to highlight the strengths of the individuals while hiding their weaknesses. This is especially significant today, having lost a frontline starter at a position of weakness (see also Gerald McCoy and the 3-tech position).

A scheme that bounces between 3-4, 4-3, and a hybrid in-between, can help mitigate the loss of McCoy. Instead of trying to find a player to replace McCoy, the Dallas Cowboys are re-writing the script. They’re not accepting a lesser-than alternative. Rather, they’re showing new looks that involve new responsibilities and new goals.

None of this was thrown out on the fly either. This was always the plan. For those who’ve been paying attention, McCarthy and Nolan have been discussing multiple defensive fronts since Day 1. DeMarcus Lawrence even discussed studying up on rushing from the 2-point stance (something that would be done in a 3-4 and hybrid look).

We saw one of those hybrids just the other day.  The Cowboys lined up in an even man front with two down linemen and two edge players standing. In that we got to see Lawrence and Aldon Smith rush from the a 2-point stance and second-year man Trysten Hill as one of the DTs inside.

If you ignore the encroachment, you can see the defensive front did quite well. The bookends managed the edge, Hill occupied two blockers, and Jaylon Smith was free to make the tackle.

Dallas Cowboys Trouble at DT

With Gerald McCoy’s season ending injury and subsequent release, the Dallas Cowboys are dangerously thin at 3-tech. Second year man Trysten Hill and rookie Neville Gallimore are the only true 3-techs on the roster behind him. They’ve proven exactly jack-squat at the professional level.

In pass rush situations, the Dallas Cowboys have a ton of options inside at 3-tech. Without run responsibilities on their plates, the Cowboys can use Aldon and Tyrone Crawford inside at the 3-tech without any drop-off.

Where Gerald McCoy was most valuable was in not-so-obvious situations. Situations like first down when teams are just as likely to run the ball as they are to pass. That’s because McCoy is just as good against the run as he is against the pass. His replacements…not so much.

The Dallas Cowboys fronts

In traditional 3-4 defenses, Dallas can hide their depth at 3-tech as well. They need one traditional plugger in the middle (a NT 1-tech kinda guy) and can adjust their DEs according to responsibility. As we saw in the clip above, Lawrence and Aldon are capable pass rushers in a 2-point stance so they’d be able to easily transition to OLB in many situations.

McCarthy spoke of this transition in his press conference. He even cited Julius Peppers’ transition from a 4-3 end to a standup rusher and how he too moved from Marinelli’s scheme (in Chicago) to McCarthy’s (in Green Bay). Again, it’s not a permanent switch to standing up for those ends. It’s going to be changing snap to snap. What does have to do with the 3-tech position?

If the Dallas Cowboys simply tried to replace McCoy with “the next man up” they’d likely see a significant falloff in quality. Opponents would target that weakness and the blueprint would be out there.

By having a little deception in their looks , the Dallas Cowboys aren’t leaving players out to dry, so to speak. Offenses can’t constantly target the 3-tech in Dallas’ 4-3 because Dallas won’t always have a 3-tech and/or a 4 down front.

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Now, the Cowboys do run the risk of overcomplicating matters for their players. Raise your hand if you remember the Rob Ryan era in Dallas. Rob had some beautifully drawn up defenses, that not only confused offenses, but also his own players.

With a limited training camp, Mike Nolan has to be sure he doesn’t throw too much at his defense. After all, all it takes is one mistake and someone is running free. But the idea of not being transparent anymore is long overdue and as long as the players can learn it, the more deceptive the better.

Must Read. How the Cowboys will employ the 2RB sets under McCarthy. light

Next. Positives from the Gerald McCoy injury (the bright side of things). dark

Gerald McCoy’s loss makes the Dallas Cowboys dangerously thin at 3-tech. But multiple fronts and multiple responsibilities from the defense will hide that weakness and set the Cowboys up to succeed in 2020.

  • Published on 08/19/2020 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 08/19/2020 at 10:29 AM