Cowboys run defense is about control, not size

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Herm says running game will fuel Dallas to a win (0:35)

Herm Edwards expects the Cowboys to control the game with their elite running attack and beat the Redskins in Week 8. (0:35)

FRISCO, Texas -- A lot of times when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, football isn't at the top of the list.

There is a lot of drama from the outside and a lot of drama that is self-induced. But that's what makes the Cowboys the most popular franchise in the sporting world and it keeps a lot of people happy and employed.

But as we kick off this week's Twitter mailbag, let's go the football route here.

It's not a bad thought. I get it. Every team would love to have a guy like Brandon Williams with the Baltimore Ravens to chew up blockers and runners. Or a guy like Vince Wilfork for all those years with the New England Patriots. That makes life a lot easier for linebackers to flow to the ball to make tackles should the backs break free.

But did you know the Cowboys had the NFL's best run defense a year ago?

We can quibble with why they were that good against the run. It's not because they were so dominant in stopping the other teams, although they did not allow a 100-yard rusher all season. It's because the offense put the opposition in the position to have to score points quickly, which forced them to throw the ball and made them one dimensional.

Over the past few years the Cowboys have relied on Nick Hayden and Terrell McClain to handle the nose tackle spot. They signed Cedric Thornton in free agency last year to be the guy, but he was cut at the start of the season and is now in Buffalo. They had Stephen Paea for the first few games but his knee gave out and he called it a career. Plus, he was not that huge, 300-plus pound run-stuffer you're thinking about.

Now the Cowboys are going with Maliek Collins as the nose tackle. He is more of an under-tackle with an ability to get to the passer, but he is sturdy enough to handle the run. The Cowboys liked what Collins did last week. They also have Brian Price as a big body in reserve.

But their scheme is based on gap control, technique and speed. They have had issues in three games this season in which they did not have any of those: Denver, Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay, and all three had a back go for more than 100 yards.

In two of those games, the Cowboys didn't have Sean Lee. Now he is back and feeling more comfortable from that hamstring strain.

I don't see the Cowboys making a play for a big nose tackle before the upcoming trade deadline. I don't see them spending a high-round pick on a big nose tackle in the draft either, unless they just completely change their philosophy. They believe they can get by with solid if unspectacular one techniques.

The Cowboys' season won't be undone because they don't have a big body in the middle. It would get undone if they don't play sound, gap-control run defense.

Ah, football talk. Rrefreshing.