When The Dallas Cowboys traded their 18th pick to San Francisco for the 31st pick and an extra 3rd round selection many in Cowboy Land were seething with uncontrollable anger. The fact that many of the pundits and media types were so high on Defensive Tackle Sharrif Floyd to watch him fall so far made it an obvious choice in many fans and analyst’s minds. However the Cowboys decided to trade down and select The Draft’s best Center that many had a 2nd or 3rd round grade on. Time will tell if this decision was the right one but maybe people seem to be jumping the proverbial gun on the negativity surrounding the current Defensive Line; or maybe not.
Last year’s Dallas Cowboys Defense was riddled with so many injuries that it should be fairly difficult to replicate such a Depth Chart debacle this coming season. Yet there are so many questions surrounding this area of the defense because of the almost extreme confidence Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin have expressed in their limited exposure to the media. Do these coaches know something that we don’t? Probably so, are there still some concerns? Most definitely.
Concerns such as the necessity for Jay Ratliff to return to his former pro bowl self in order to have that 3-Tech presence in the middle. Jay Ratliff has been an integral piece to this Defensive Line since 2007. Though labeled as undersized which led to his 7th Round status, Ratliff has done a remarkable job with his opportunities. The issue is that because he was slightly undersized to play Nose Tackle in a 3-4, Ratliff has experienced some injuries the past few seasons because of the double teams he often could be seen taking. In 2012, Jay Ratliff missed significant time which unfortunately hurt the Defense in a great deal. In the few games that Jay Ratliff did play in 2012, it is worth noting that he did play well.
Then you have to look at the reluctance of many in regards to the switching positions of DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. This is the one that I believe has more signs pointing to it being a non-issue. 2005’s NFL Draft selection of DeMarcus Ware signified the beginning of the switch to a 3-4 Defense, but Ware was a Defensive End in College, and a damn good one at that. Yes, Ware is coming off of a season that towards the end he was somewhat ineffective due to his ailing shoulder, but does anybody really believe that by putting his hand in the dirt it’s going to drastically effect his ability to get to the quarterback? Anthony Spencer was also a Defensive End at Purdue and finished 2nd in the nation for tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Both of these linemen have shown previously that they are capable of the task at hand; many pundits such as Dan Graziano, Bryan Broaddus and Warren Sapp believe it may serve them better.
The major concern that I share the sentiments of the lot of you is that of who is going to fill the 1-Tech position. Josh Brent would have been perfect in this scheme in my opinion, but unfortunately his services will most likely be unavailable. Now there have been some positive things said about former 6th Round Carolina Panther Nick Hayden, a few things have also been mentioned about Ben Bass, Sean Lissemore and Jason Hatcher. Hatcher has done well with his opportunities but even he has stated that he enjoys coming off of the bench, plus he may be a bit small. The hope that I’m sure many of you share is that they don’t try and put Ratliff there because he was their 3-4 Nose Tackle; if this happens then it could mean more double teams and missed time for Jay. Hopefully, one of these “unheralded” guys can make a run for it and I’m personally pulling for Lissemore.
The depth behind some of these positions is actually looking better than many may have believed in the beginning. Kyle Wilber has received some pretty glowing reviews from Ware and company about his pass rush ability. Tyrone Crawford is hoping to be the eventual replacement for Spencer, seeing as a deal anytime soon is probably not in the cards. Alex Albright, a former Defensive End turn Linebacker is going to get his opportunities to try out his former position, and many others as he has been nicknamed the “Swiss Army Knife”. Marinelli seems to have an idea or two on how to get the very best out of his Defensive Lineman and polish their talents, just ask Henry Melton.
Though not taking a single Defensive Lineman in this year’s draft can also be viewed as wishful thinking, there may be a little fire where this smoke is leaking. Having Rod Marinelli does not mean that the concerns should be put on the back-burner; however it can mean some really positive things for the development of Crawford and even Wilber. This team is not going to have the luxury of DeMarcus Ware forever, and Spencer seems but certain to find a new home in 2014, so Marinelli’s expertise are desperately needed; especially in the next few years. Training Camp is but a week away at this point and as I have mentioned previously I will be partaking in the activities for the first weekend; as well as providing you fine folks with tweets so start following. So many what ifs regarding this position group but there may be a few surprises in store much like every year. If not, then expect a pricey draft pick in 2014.