The Dallas Cowboys held a press conference on Thursday. Head coach Mike McCarthy breaks his silence for the first time this year. He addressed the offseason, last season’s issues, preparation for the 2021-22 season and more.
Cowboys Free Agency
We finally heard Coach McCarthy’s view on the Cowboys free agency and the moves made over the last week.
“We’ve done well in the rookie free agent pool.” said McCarthy. Going on to add that he thinks the Cowboys are making a strong effort to improve the defense during free agency.
McCarthy touched base on the recent deal with LB Keanu Neal, saying he thinks Neal is a great fit for the Cowboys. he confirmed that Neal will be starting off in the linebacker position.
“We want to be as fluid as we can though free agency,” said McCarthy about how the Cowboys are going forward in the free agency even now.
He went on to add that “group dynamics is important.” McCarthy says he is a big believer that team bonding is important with the newly signed free agents and the rest of the team. But since COVID-19 precautions are still in place, this has been a challenge to get everyone to bond in-person.
Are Pro Days Telling for McCarthy?
We heard from McCarthy about the challenges of not having an NFL Combine this year. “This year is so different than any others,” he said.
There has been plenty of speculation about McCarthy and Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn’s appearances at multiple Pro Days.
When asked if them going to these Pro Days has any meaning he made it clear that it means more this year than any other because of the lack of a combine, but that “it’s about what set of eyes is best to go.”
He says that the Pro Days are their only chance as coaches to “get a live look at these guys,” but he doesn’t think it will be a deciding factor to who gets picked at number 10 during the NFL Draft for the Cowboys.
Upcoming NFL Draft
Speaking of the 2021 NFL Draft, McCarthy discussed the importance of it saying “you want to get it right” in terms of having a top-10 draft pick.
“You want to get the best player that fits your football team,” said McCarthy as he was asked about potential draft picks.
There has been plenty of speculation to what positions the Cowboys will draft for. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we take some defensive players in the draft,” said McCarthy. So, we might see even more depth added to the defensive side of the ball fairly soon.
As far as the way the NFL Draft will go this year, McCarthy says he expect thing to go back to normal from the coaches perspective.
Mike McCarthy on Addressing the Defense
The biggest problem for the Cowboys last season was the defense, or arguably the lack of. McCarthy said last seasons’ defense was not constant and it was agreed that change was needed across the board.
“It’s clearly not my vision of a football team and how I see a football team competing,” he said.
When asked about his offseason priorities, McCarthy said “I think it’s obvious that my primary focus is the defense.”
McCarthy went on to talk about the changes made to the defensive scheme last season. He took accountability saying his, Jerry Jones’ and Stephen Jones’ projections for the defensive changes last season were off. “We tried to change too much on defense last year,” said McCarthy. “There was definitely some miss on understanding of what fits and what didn’t fit,” he continued.
McCarthy touched base on hiring Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn as well. He said the decision to hire Quinn had to happen fast. He said Quinn has a good reputation as a D-line coach and he has a good history with him.
“We all need to be better, players coaches head coaches,”said McCarthy.
Breaking news came out of the press conference from McCarthy, which was that Dallas Cowboys DE and eight-year veteran Tyrone Crawford is retiring from the NFL. When asked about LB and 10-year veteran Sean Lee, he said that they are still in discussions about Lee’s future.
It was reported on Wednesday that the Cowboys had decided to part ways with DE Aldon Smith. McCarthy made it clear that he “personally haven’t moved on” from Smith and that that is still a “fluid” situation. He also said that there is still talk going on with Smith.
McCarthy was asked about LB Jaylon Smith and said that he thinks Smith has the “ability and experience to be interchangeable.”
Mike McCarthy Breaks Silence on O-Line Troubles
Another noticeable point of weakness for the Cowboys last year was the lack of protection from the offensive line.
“We just gotta get healthy on the offensive line,” said McCarthy in reference to Tyron Smith and La’el Collins who were both out with injuries last season. He says both OTs are expected to fully recovery and return for the 2021 season.
McCarthy went on to say that a healthy offensive line is what gives the team the consistency that is needed. “Your opportunity for success is heightened around it,” he said. He went on to add that getting to work with the o-line in Dallas was a “big attraction” to the head coaching job in Dallas a year ago.
McCarthy made it clear that he has high expectations for a “very competitive situation for the offensive line” this season.
Last Season’s Adversities
“I have a lot of work to do,” said McCarthy in regards to issues that clearly need attention during the offseason with the defense and offensive line. He went on to say that he believes that self-refection and evaluation is critical to growth. He made it clear that there are going to be adjustments going forward and that the team will “practice and change differently than we ever did before.”
McCarthy said he’s unsure if NFL will switch back to a 90-man roster in 2021, or use an 80-man roster like last season. But he hopes to have 90.
He touched base on missing out on Training Camp in Oxnard, California because of COVID restrictions. McCarthy expects to return to Oxnard and experience the hype around it from the rest of the franchise. Something we heard from Jerry Jones, as well, during a separate press conference that was held a couple weeks ago.
Dak Prescott’s Return/Backup Situation After Andy Dalton
One of the biggest adversities the Cowboys faced was Dak Prescott’s season ending injury.
“It’s a whole lot easier to do cartwheels in the sand,” said McCarthy about Dak’s return to the team. He went on to describe Dak as the “keystone of moving forward” for the franchise.
He went on to say that Dak is making progress and in on course with his recovery. McCarthy said he felt like in a lot of ways he didn’t get to experience his first year as the head coach.
As far as the backup QB situation, McCarthy said this is a position they will “continue to look at.”
Overall, he said he is ready to “build a team to contend for a championship.”
Another adversity the entire NFL faced was the challenges brought upon by COVID-19 restrictions.
McCarthy said that the connecting with everyone is different because the Cowboys are still working virtually.
“It still feels kind of brand new,” said McCarthy because of lack of an in-person setting. He mentioned that the Cowboys need to do a better job of working virtually as a team.
Overall, he said that everyone is better prepared for working in a virtual setting with COVID restrictions and that operation will be better.