National Football League
Cowboys DC Mike Zimmer: We have to do it 'the way I want it done'
National Football League

Cowboys DC Mike Zimmer: We have to do it 'the way I want it done'

Published May. 29, 2024 5:37 p.m. ET

Mike Zimmer is in Act 2 as the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys and is back in the NFL for the first time since 2021; he spent the previous two seasons as an assistant at Jackson State and Colorado after serving as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings from 2014-21.

During Zimmer's time in Minnesota, the Vikings had one of the best defenses in the NFL. In fact, from 2015-19, their defense finished in the top 10 in points surrendered, including being first in both opponent total yards and opponent points in 2017.

Can the Cowboys be the same force under Zimmer? The answer seems to be yes, as long as they embrace his way of doing things.

"It's like I told the defense the first day I got here. I said, this is a different deal for me. Usually, when I come in, the defense is not good. You know? They're pretty darn good," Zimmer told ESPN in an interview that was published on Wednesday morning. "So, it's a little different for me because we have to advance some of the things they were doing good and try to improve on the things they weren't doing as good. But for the most part, they've played pretty darn good, and we're going to try to accentuate that and maybe be a little bit more technique-oriented, maybe a little bit more disciplined. Some of those things.


"At the end of the day, we've got to do it the way I want it done. I know if you try to come in and do somebody else's thing, it just doesn't go well."

Last season, Dallas surrendered just 187.4 passing yards (fifth in the NFL), 112.4 rushing yards (16th), 299.7 total yards (fifth) and 18.5 points (fifth) per game under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn — who left to become the new head coach of the Washington Commanders after the season.

Its defense is headlined by linebacker Micah Parsons, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and defensive backs DaRon Bland and Trevon Diggs

Parsons has totaled 13-plus sacks and been a Pro Bowler in each of his three seasons in the NFL; Lawrence is a four-time Pro Bowler; after reeling in five interceptions in his 2022 rookie season, Bland had an NFL-high nine interceptions, including five pick-sixes last season; Diggs' 2023 campaign ended after two games due to a torn ACL, but the cornerback led the NFL with 11 interceptions in 2021.

That said, the Cowboys lost at home to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC wild-card round, 48-32, surrendering 415 total yards in the loss. They also lost a handful of quality rotation players and/or starters this offseason, including defensive linemen Neville Gallimore, Dorance Armstrong, Johnathan Hankins and Dante Fowler Jr. Meanwhile, defensive backs Jayron Kearse and Stephon Gilmore remain free agents, and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch retired.

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As for what it has brought into the building, Dallas signed veteran linebackers Eric Kendricks and Damien Wilson, while selecting Western Michigan defensive lineman Marshawn Kneeland (No. 56) and Notre Dame linebacker Marist Liufau (No. 87), among others, in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Zimmer was part of the Cowboys coaching staff from 1994-2006, serving as defensive coordinator in the last seven seasons, four of which came under Hall of Fame head coach Bill Parcells. He was then the defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, followed by a six-year stint in the same position with the Cincinnati Bengals (2008-13) before taking the throne in Minnesota in 2014.

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