In an effort to continue construction of the entire 2002 Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Warren Sapp was lured out of retirement to play the critical “undertackle” position in the new Tampa 2 defense the Dallas Cowboys are currently installing.
Was that too far?
As if it didn’t clearly go without saying, the 40 year old and soon-to-be Hall of Famer, Warren Sapp, IS NOT ending retirement to become the new defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys merely have a glaring hole in the middle of the defensive line and an unhealthy affinity towards the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For reasons unknown Jay Ratliff did not learn from Josh Brent’s mistakes and allegedly was caught drinking and driving.
The DWI further clouds Ratliff’s future with the team after a midseason skirmish with owner Jerry Jones and a high salary cap figure are already stacked against him. With no proven DT on the roster other than Rat, what can the Cowboys do to successfully transition to the 4-3?
It’s unknown if anyone on the roster can successfully handle either tackle position much less the all-important Undertackle position Warren Sapp once manned. The undertackle (or 3-technique) requires size and quickness. Think Jay Ratliff circa 2008. Since the player needs to be big enough to hold the line and fast enough to consistently beat the offensive guard in one-on-one situations, the ideal candidate is no easy find. The candidates are…
Hatcher has steadily progressed as a DE in the Dallas Cowboy’s 3-4 defense. He’s the fastest and provides the most pressure of all current Cowboys defensive lineman. He’s the obvious choice, right? Not so fast. While many point to Jason Hatcher as the most athletic and best option, others question his quickness (different than speed), ability to navigate in tight spaces, and height (6’6”) as hindrances to his success in this position. While playing here is a possibility, Hatcher is best suited for the less glamorous strong side Defensive End.
Sean Lissemore was undervalued in 2011 and then possibly overvalued in 2012 so where exactly does he fit? Sean has better than average agility and quickness for a man his size (6-3/303 lbs.) but it’s his relentless motor that sets him apart. The undertackle position requires superior quickness and extraordinary effort to be successful. The effort is unquestioned but is his God-given quickness enough to be a 3-technique undertackle or will it reduce him to the top candidate for the nose tackle position?
Crawford is ideal for the strong side defensive end. Unfortunately that is where Hatcher was just pegged for also. Crawford will be looking to start in 2013 so being a rotational player would be seen as a disappointment. Crawford’s maturation as a player and pressure to play may push the Cowboy’s coaching staff to give Hatcher an extra look or three at the undertackle position after all.
Marcus Spears, Ben Bass, Robert Callaway
If either of these fine contributors are expected to hold starting roles on the defensive line, the Dallas Cowboys are in much more trouble than any of us imagined. Therefore, one must assume the Cowboys are planning to look outside the current roster to fill the defensive tackle positions needed for the Tampa 2.
Coincidently I brought up the topic of Ratliff as an undertackle (3-technique role) near the start of the 2012 season. Here is a link to that article in which it discusses Rat’s importance and lightly describes Ratliff in the undertackle role.
Whether Rat stays or goes the Cowboys will need to make some additions to the D-line to make this work. Coupled with the changes needed on the offensive line, this could get financially tricky.