by Dallas Cowboys Mailbag, David Helman & Rob Phillips
Did you ever think that we would be way better off with Jeff Heath still manning the backfield? How did the Cowboys allow this to consistently be a weakness, year after year? - ADAM WHITE / FARMINGDALE, NY
David: I didn't need to see Jeff Heath pick off Patrick Mahomes to know he was better than a lot of people gave him credit for. Although I will admit, back in the spring I definitely thought they would've gotten a similar level of play out of HaHa Clinton-Dix. Regardless of whether they want to admit it publicly or not, it's obvious the Cowboys just simply don't value the position as much as others. Their actions - or rather their inactions - speak much louder than their words. All I can do is hope that eventually these lapses will inspire them to spend a significant draft pick to address the position.
Rob: Heath was definitely underrated when he was here. I believe he had the most takeaways on the Cowboys' defense over the last several years. To Dave's point, the club expected HaHa to step in and be a solid replacement. After all, he had been a pretty productive starter for Mike McCarthy in Green Bay. That didn't happen, obviously, and now they're trying to patch a rotation together. You're right, it's not a position where they've invested significant free-agent money or draft picks over the years. That very well might change by next spring. But right now, it's not the only issue on defense. Trysten Hill's knee injury is a big loss for the interior defensive line, and they're going to be tested in the run game again Monday.
Of those available to return to the active roster, which players must Dallas get back in the lineup in order to improve their play? - JIM WHATLEY / HENDERSON, TX
David: I don't know if he'll be ready to go against Arizona, but it will be nice to have Chidobe Awuzie back healthy. He's caught some criticism over the years, but for the most part he is capable of handling one side of the field without being a liability. If he can handle that job, it would put less strain on the rest of these defensive backs to handle their assignments.
Rob: It's hard to believe it's been almost a full calendar year since we've seen Leighton Vander Esch make a complete start. They need his presence in the middle of the defense. He and Jaylon Smith complement each other well when they're both in the game. Joe Thomas has done a really nice job these first few weeks, but a deeper linebacker group is going to be very important to stop teams from trying to load up and run against them like Cleveland did.
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