Mike McCarthy is going to get what he wants as the Dallas Cowboys transition from the Jason Garrett regime to his very own, and the first major signs of his carte blanche are in . Heavily anchored with proven success but also having a healthy sprinkle of risk and youthful creativity, McCarthy has effectively stacked the deck on the sideline in Dallas. With his group of tutors mostly complete, he can now shift his focus to roster management, and with that comes internal discussions that will adjust the Cowboys view on certain positions going forward.
Addressing needs in free agency is one thing, but don't expect the Cowboys to change course and sign a free agent whale in the first wave, because they're Amari Cooper, for starters. What'll truly be interesting is the influence McCarthy injects into the team's strategy for the 2020 NFL Draft, as his view on personnel clashes at certain positions with some age-old philosophies that exist in North Texas.and
The Cowboys are easily one of the best teams in the NFL when it comes to building through the draft, but their biggest misses have come thanks to their unwillingness to unglue themselves from prototypes. That's why they selected the length of Taco Charlton over the dynamic potential of a "small" T.J. Watt, as one example.
They've also avoided going all-in on a big bodied interior defensive lineman on a perennial basis, inflexible in how enthralled they were/are with a player's ability to flex between multiple positions. That formula was a staple of longtime defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who routinely convinced the Cowboys to select players that fit the mold of his scheme, leading to picks like Trysten Hill over safety Juan Thornhill -- most recently.
With Marinelli now taking up residence with the Las Vegas Raiders, it's defensive coordinator Mike Nolan calling the shots on that side of the oblong, and the hybrid coordinator requires wide bodies on the interior to clog up lanes while his edge rushers go to work on opposing quarterbacks. Thanks for him and McCarthy, they already have the ear of Vice President of Player Personnel Will McClay. There won't be a drastic overhaul, considering McClay has earned the right to rank talent as he sees fit, but expect some changes.
McCarthy will keep the Cowboys in the incumbent 4-3 scheme, but with hybrid tweaks and an emphasis on making it fit the players, as opposed to form-fitting it the other way around.
"At the end of the day, we're going to stay within the same scheme, and we're going to do things a little bit different," McClay said, speaking from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. "Our job is to go and evaluate all the players. They might want bigger interior players, so that's fine. We'll go and look for that. But I think we're going to be looking for the same type of players."
Taking McClay's statement one step further was Stephen Jones, who was a bit more poignant in describing how the Cowboys will cater the draft to what McCarthy is trying to do in 2020 and beyond.
"I think Mike said it best," Jones said. "He just, and scheme around those type of players."
Attacking the draft this year will again be a collective effort between the front office, the scouting department and the coaching staff, but the latter piece of that triumvirate is wildly changed from years past. As such, there's a good chance the Cowboys place a higher value on positions like nose tackle, safety and potentially tight end (to locate a complement for Blake Jarwin) -- all things the team avoided like grim death under Garrett.
With owner Jerry Jones carrying a very real sense of urgency to finally land another Lombardi trophy, he'll give the guy who hoisted one at AT&T Stadium in Super Bowl XLV whatever he needs to do it again.
Only this time, for the Cowboys.