Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy

What does Gerald McCoy add to the Dallas Cowboys defense?

  • dallas cowboys
  • Gerald McCoy
  • nfl free agency
By Nate Sanchez March 18, 2020 0 Comment
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After seeing many starters on the defense poached in free agency, the Cowboys filled a big hole in the middle of their defense with Gerald McCoy.

Dallas badly needed help in the middle of its defense, and the Cowboys finally have their man. 32-year-old defensive tackle Gerald McCoy provides all sorts of flexibility on the defensive front, given his versatility as either a 3-technique or 5-technique. He is best on the interior and has made his career there, but at least the capability is there.

From the jump, this felt like a tremendous steal for Dallas, given how low-risk the contract is at three years, $20 million. Making a living off of signing 32-year-old defensive linemen isn’t a great way to do things, but at this value, it is impossible to turn down. Despite his age, it is clear that McCoy has plenty left in the tank.

McCoy tallied five sacks, seven tackles for loss, and 13 QB hits while starting all 16 games for Carolina. In 2019, he had 42 pressures, good for 14th among interior defensive linemen.

On tape, it is apparent that he still brings the juice in multiple aspects of the game and is still an impact player that will make a difference in 2020. See this thread from @JohnOwning for a quick run-through of his tape.

In his prime, he was known as having the quickest get-off in the NFL, beating offensive linemen with speed. According to Next Gen Stats, that quickness has not worn off as he averaged a 0.94-second pass rush get-off in 2019, which ranks 3rd among DTs, only trailing Aaron Donald and Chris Jones.

McCoy could also have an impact on the development of 2019 second-rounder Trysten Hill.

Point being, this is a great short term move at a position of tremendous need, not to mention the mentoring he could provide for 2019 second-round pick Trysten Hill. The young DT had a very disappointing rookie year and needs a big 2020 to salvage things. He profiled similarly to McCoy as an athletic, quick get-off type DT in the pre-draft process. This signing could be big towards the development of Hill.

The loss of Maliek Collins is more than alleviated with the acquisition of McCoy.

McCoy also serves as an immediate and direct replacement of Maliek Collins, who bolted for Oakland on Tuesday as he followed former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Collins always flashed big-time interior pass rush potential but struggled to stay healthy in his four years in Dallas. He was Dallas’ best interior pass rusher in 2019 with 48 pressures, good for eighth among DTs.

While Collins is younger and a better solution long term, McCoy is an immediate short term upgrade on a presumably cheaper deal (Collins’ contract has not come out yet). The most significant area McCoy will be an upgrade is in the run game.

Dallas struggled quite a bit at times with stopping the run, and a lot of that fell on the DTs. Linemen were blowing up Dallas’ defensive front and getting to the second level of the defense, causing even more problems for Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.

Part of the reason defensive tackles don’t put up huge tackling numbers is that their first goal is to eat up blockers and keep the linebackers clean. This was a massive problem for Dallas in 2019. While McCoy might not provide quite the pass-rushing juice Collins does, he is a significant upgrade in the run game, and you can see more in the link posted above.

It appears Dallas is genuinely headed in a new direction with how it handles its roster building. An investment in defensive tackle was a rarity under the previous staff.

Dallas rarely has made a significant investment in the defensive interior, let alone a considerable investment that worked out. Don’t believe me? It’s the most significant investment in a DT since Henry Melton signed a four-year, $27M contract in 2014. His impact wasn’t huge, and Cedric Thornton‘s (four-years, $17M in 2016) was even less impactful.

The difference between the Mike McCarthy regime and the old regime is already apparent. It’s clear McCarthy and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan are making it a priority to beef up the interior with some impact players. With how much talent is still available at the DT position (Mike Pennel, Damon Harrison, and more), don’t expect Gerald McCoy to be the only DT Dallas brings in.

Overall, this McCoy deal is an excellent value, is an immediate upgrade at a position of need, and gets an A from me. Great work from Jerry and Stephen Jones here.

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