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Dan Quinn created a versatile defense with the Dallas Cowboys, and it’s putting the NFL on notice

dan quinn
Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

FRISCO, Texas — Micah Parsons joined the Cowboys three seasons ago. So did coordinator Dan Quinn.

They’re each an integral part of one of the NFL’s defenses.

Parsons, second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting last year,  provided the superstar and attitude, while Quinn supplied the scheme.

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Together, they’ve been good. Now, they’re ready to dominate.

The Cowboys allowed just 171 yards while recording seven sacks and forcing five fumbles in a 40-0 win over the New York Giants on Sunday, the largest shutout win in franchise history.

New York quarterback Daniel Jones completed 15 of 28 passes for 104 yards and two interceptions. His 32.4 passer rating was the worst of his career.

Parsons, who harassed Jones much of the night, finished with four tackles and a sack. He pressured Jones six times.

“I think we’re making a statement that we’ve been trying to make: We’re the best defense in the National Football League,” Parsons said after the game.

Quinn orchestrates it all.

Dallas Cowboys defense under Dan Quinn

micah parsons
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

He’s built a fast, versatile defense with a mean streak. He’s creative with the scheme, always searching for ways to put his best players in position to make plays. More importantly, he lets players be themselves; if you want to be loud and trash-talk opponents that’s cool as long as you make a play.

“Sometimes, coaches want to put you in a box or stifle your personality,” safety Jayron Kearse said. “Dan isn’t like that. He encourages guys to let their personality come out. He wants you to be you and make plays.”

Jerry Jones and Vice President Stephen Jones trusted Quinn enough to let him build the defense in his image.

The Cowboys used a first-round pick on a defensive tackle for the first time after drafting Russell Maryland in 1991 because Quinn determined they needed to get bigger at defensive tackle.

They signed safties Donovan Wilson and Malik Hooker to extensions in the offseason because Quinn determined those players were vital to the scheme. One of Quinn’s critical adjustments is using three safeties and two linebackers in the Cowboys’ base defense. That puts a better athlete on the field, but a player still capable of being physical against the run.

“Shoutout to DQ. Dan’s doing a great job of leading us and putting us in a position to make plays,” Demarcus Lawrence said after the game. “He’s our fearless leader, and we respect him.”

Quinn has earned the Cowboys’ loyalty.  After all, he has interviewed for multiple head coaching jobs in the past two years — including Denver, Arizona and Indianapolis last offseason — and remained in Dallas.

How Cowboys’ defensive players have been developed

trevon diggs
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Under Quinn, the Cowboys have done an excellent job of developing young players, such as defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa, who had two sacks against the Giants. DaRon Bland had an interception return for a touchdown.

“He’s always been somebody that can see the big picture,” Quinn said of Odighizuwa. “He’ll go to any length to put in the work to get there. He’s starting to put the whole package together. His work ethic and studying of film is near the top of our group.”

Parsons, Lawrence, Stephon Gilmore, and Trevon Diggs are stars. Against New York, Parsons and Lawrence had a sack, and Gilmore intercepted a pass. Diggs, criticized for his reluctance to tackle last season, created Bland’s interception with a huge hit and forced a fumble.

“I was really  proud of him for that,” Quinn said of Diggs tackle. “It was a great hit, he couldn’t have timed it any better on the one that Bland got the interception on. Then knocking another one out later. It’s really having a mindfulness approach to get the football. He wasn’t going in there to do anything other than hit, and good things came out of it.”

The rest of the defense is a blend of interchangeable parts that allows Quinn to easily match any personnel group.

“DQ is really good,” Armstrong said. “We have a lot of good players and he make us even better.”

Jean-Jacques Taylor is an NFL Insider for Sportsnaut and the author of the upcoming book “Coach Prime“, with Deion Sanders. Follow him on Twitter.

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