Dan Quinn talks elevating Cowboys defense, Micah Parsons’ impact

What impressed Quinn about Micah Parsons was his pass rushing ability from the outside.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn joined The Musers on Sportsradio 96.7 FM/1310 The Ticket [KTCK-AM] last week talk about improving upon a strong defense, adding Anthony Barr and the current path with NFL defenses. Here’s what he had to say.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Taking the Cowboys defense from what it was the year before, to making it a much more respectable defense than any of us could have ever imagined in one year, I can’t imagine what you’re gonna do for an encore this year.

Quinn: “There was a lot of people involved with that in terms of improvement in belief and where we’re gonna go. I would think an encore is kind of like after the show. There’s a new tour. As we are going through it, new show, new group. That’s part of putting things together. What do we want to do a little bit differently, scheme wise? How do we add draft picks, free agents into the mix? I would hope our standard of our communication could go up after being under the same roof together for a year. So from a defensive scheme standpoint, those are the things I’m pointing to as I’m heading into this camp. The speed, the communication. Can we take that up to a higher spot and then feature some new guys into the roles? I would imagine, you’re going to see jumps from a lot of players. Usually it’s one to two and two to three. Because when you get to repeat the same calls, that makes a big difference.”

How much did Micah Parsons surprise you last year? ‘m assuming that going into the draft you knew he could play, and I’m sure you had influence on the on the drafting of Micah Parsons. But how much did he take you by surprise with what he did in his rookie year?

Quinn: “He certainly exceeded my pass rushing thoughts because I knew he was going to be an excellent blitzer. You could see his speed, getting to the edge and perimeter players. But when he had the ability to rush, that’s really when we added so much more into our package from a pass rush standpoint. It’s not typical to have your insider linebacker, who can move out to the edge and become a good rusher. I wouldn’t say I was surprised, but he exceeded what I thought. There wasn’t a lot of him on the on the end-of-the-line pass rush from his college career. So that was a lot that he developed on his own. Because remember, he played a little bit at the end his freshman year. Then he didn’t play the next year with the COVID year.”

I‘m big basketball fan. So I’ve been really interested in the evolution of the positionless NBA. You want five guys that can all kind of do the same thing. And we’ve been seeing that in football on the defensive side. You still need specialization on offense. But when you’re putting together a defense, how much do you think about that? Wanting as many guys as possible that you can move around but you probably still need a couple of guys who specialize at that yes position?

Quinn: “I think you nailed that. There’s definitely spots for roles. And it might be the big guy that can play inside on short yardage and running downs -- that’s the big nose tackle. It’s the tight ends that have changed to me, because of the speed and athleticism. You have to have guys that can match or that can be outside. They split outside like wide receivers, a lot of them can play a wide receiver position.”

“Those are the kind of matchups that I look at, and you don’t think that way in college as much. So when a guy comes to the NFL, you find all these things he can do. But this is the lab that you do it in. Training camp.”

You don’t think anyone will do what Army does at the college level and run it 50 times? That wouldn’t be good, would it?

Quinn: “As a defensive coach I’d probably like it because they probably have the ball for about 35 minutes a game, but in our game and scoring, that’s the name of it. There’s a lot of stats out there, but at the end of the day, it’s still about scoring defense. You still have to tackle really well. Those are the things with all the space plays, that you better have a really good tackling defense if you want to have a good scoring defense.”

You’ve got a new toy to play with in Anthony Barr. How do you envision him working in?

Quinn: “Man, if I admire what he has done so far. And if we add somebody with speed and length and has pass rush ability and good hands to get it, I’d be all for that.”

Does that even free up Micah even more, if you have a guy who is capable at linebacker?

Quinn: “I think when you put different guys in different spots, I think those are the benefits of that. Can we feature them here, or can we put Anthony on the edge? Or he’s back and Micah is behind the ball. So there are lots of ways to use them, but that’s how we’ll go through the next month to make sure what what’s the unique stuff that Anthony has and how we can feature him in the system.”

Click here to listen to the full interview.

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