Cowboys Exec Will McClay Discusses Draft Needs for Mike Zimmer’s Defense

The Cowboys have a new defensive coordinator, and exec Will McClay said the team and Mike Zimmer are seeking "bigger bodies" on defense.

Dallas Cowboys vice president of player personnel Will McClay and various members of the coaching staff, scouting department, and front office are visiting downtown Indianapolis this week to meet with players at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine.

The process allows people like McClay to get a better feel for who players are off the field and how they look in person. On Thursday, McClay offered insight into the Cowboys’ 2024 NFL Draft strategy on the defensive side of the ball.

McClay Discusses Cowboys’ Defensive Draft Needs

Dallas hired Mike Zimmer, the former Minnesota Vikings HC, to replace the departed Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator.

With a new DC comes a new scheme, and McClay spoke with the team’s media department on the type of players the Cowboys are looking for in the NFL Draft to adjust to Zimmer’s philosophy.

The Cowboys are conducting dozens of formal and informal interviews throughout the week with the prospects in attendance, which McClay says is an important part of the draft process.

“It’s big for us because we spend so much time gathering information and asking people about them, now we get to put our own inferences on them, sit down with them,” he said. “Our coaches are here, and we get to figure out which guys may be able to fit from a personality standpoint, work ethic, and all of that.”

McClay said that the team is looking for players who fit Zimmer’s new defensive scheme. This starts with linebackers, a clear need for Dallas.

“As we begin this process, it’s a little different scheme,” McClay said. “We’re looking for big, athletic football players. Finding guys that have those little nuances that [Zimmer] has. It’s been great for us to spend time with the coaches and hear them talk to players and communicate so we can get a better feel for what that is as well.

“I think we’re probably going to look more so at those bigger bodies at the inside, stopping that. We’re always looking at linebackers. That’s a position that in free agency and in the draft that we’re going to have to look at because we want to add more players there.”

McClay said Zimmer wants to play solid football up front, turn the ball over, and have speed and versatility.

The Cowboys were one of the teams most mentioned during Wednesday’s sessions as having interest this offseason in emphasizing beefing up the front seven of their defense.

Offensively, figuring out how to improve the run game is an offseason focus.

“No. 1, they gotta be able to run the football, and then it’s how well they pick up things,” McClay said. “We’re looking at it from a measurement standpoint and the different types of backs there are, and then do they fit into our system? That’s vitally important, but even more important is the guys that open up those holes.”

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McClay said he and his staff will continue to evaluate the characters and in-person skillset of each prospect they have on their draft board.

“We want to figure out who the guy is,” he said. “We want to bring them in, ask them about the stuff that they do, see if they can learn our stuff in those short instances, and really find out what they’re all about. There are some guys that come into the room, and you can tell right away that there’s that dynamic personality. It’s just getting to know the players that’s the coolest part about this.”

Miss football? The 2024 NFL Draft is almost here, boss. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!

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