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Can Dan Quinn Turn the Cowboys Defense Around?

Among the many glaring problems the Dallas Cowboys had this past season, their defensive woes stood firm as their biggest issue. The defense let up the most points and touchdowns in franchise history and was historically bad against the run. 

After the disaster of the defensive season, the Cowboys fired their defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and hired former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn in his place. 

Quinn, who just posted his worst record to date with the Falcons going 4-12, is looking to redeem his coaching status in a defensive role with the Cowboys.

While many may not be thrilled with the prospect of pairing an all-time poor defense with a coach fresh off his worst year in the league, Quinn’s history as a defensive coordinator may actually foreshadow a promising future for the struggling unit. 

Quinn and the Legion of Boom 

Anyone familiar with football in the early 2010’s is likely aware of the legendary Seattle Seahawks squad known as The Legion of Boom, one of the most electric and hard-hitting defensive units in NFL history.

So why is this important? Dan Quinn was their defensive coordinator, and he was stellar. After being hired to the team in 2013, Quinn made a statement with the unit. 

Headlined with names such as Earl Thomas III, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner and more, the Seahawks defense was historically and statistically incredible. 

In both seasons when Quinn was at the helm of the group, they finished first in fewest points allowed, fewest total yards and finished first and fourth in takeaways for the respective years. 

The Seahawks had back-to-back Super Bowl appearances with a blowout victory over the Denver Broncos in 2013 and a last second loss to the Patriots in 2014. 

Regardless of the outcomes, the defense was terrific and Quinn was the mastermind behind much of it. Of course it would be a major stretch to put the talent of this Cowboys defense on par with that of Seattle’s, but the main takeaway is that having Quinn’s experience is likely to provide serious improvement.

New Pieces on the Defensive End 

It would be unrealistic to expect significant improvement from the Cowboys defense and Quinn based on the personnel Dallas had in 2020. However, there have been some notable additions and returning pieces on the defensive side of the ball. 

Firstly, Leighton Vander Esch who has proven to be a force when healthy has had a full offseason to recover after an injury riddled season. With all of the glaring holes the Cowboys have on defense, their young linebacker core is a very bright spot.

They will also be adding the young rookie talent of Micah Parsons to pair with the already star-studded core. If this unit can stay healthy, they will undoubtedly be a force for any opposing offense. 

The pick of Parsons unit isn’t the only upgrade the Cowboys have made this offseason either, as the offseason additions of Damontae Kazee at the safety position and Keanu Neal as a rotational linebacker are sure to provide some much needed help in coverage and open field tackling. 

Quinn also has experience with Neal and Kazee as they were all tenured together in Atlanta for multiple years, so the Cowboys can hope to see some of that chemistry translate to Dallas. 

In addition to a secondary that can produce stops when healthy, despite having their worst year to date as a group, Quinn has a great opportunity to shore up any inconsistencies and have them playing to their fullest capabilities.

It is no stretch to say he is capable of doing so either, after conducting and coordinating an all-time great secondary in Seattle. 

There is still plenty of work to be done with the defense and it won’t be fixed overnight, but if anyone has the experience and capabilities to do so it’s Dan Quinn. 

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