Back in April during the NFL draft, I was unfortunately stuck in an evening class while the festivities were going on. I had my phone out and was trying to sneak a peek to see what moves the Dallas Cowboys were going to make that night. Something unexpected happened, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, a projected top 5-pick, was falling fast down the draft boards and was ready to be selected by the Cowboys with the 18th pick in the draft.
I was excited that the Cowboys were about to get another quality tackle on a line that was going to feature other defensive tackles like Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Tyrone Crawford and defensive ends like Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Adding Floyd to that mix would have made the defensive unit a true contender in the NFL.
Instead, the Cowboys moved down in the draft picked up center Travis Frederick and tight end Gavin Escobar in the first two rounds and did not select a single defensive line player in all 7 rounds. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin claimed that they had too many players on the defensive line and they would be fine with what they had.
Then training camp started and it all went downhill from there. First defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford tore his Achilles heel during the first practice losing him for the remainder of the season. Then Ratliff was put on the Physically Unable to Perform list and then he was cut today. Add in a season-ending injury to Spencer, a pulled quad injury to Ware and you are left with a defensive line that has one viable player and that is Hatcher. The rest are scrubs that were pulled either off the street or brought in before they were cut by other teams.
The current defensive line is a joke and I fear that the magician, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, can’t work his magic on this makeshift line. According to ESPN reporter Jean-Jacques Taylor, that when the Cowboys moved to the Tampa 2 this year, the projected line of Ware, Hatcher, Ratliff and Spencer had 186 career sacks. The projected line for this week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles have a total of 31 career sacks and 21 of those belong to Jason Hatcher.
The front office really blew an opportunity to get younger and better at their defensive line. By drafting Floyd, you add in another impact player that costs you little money. You would have someone who could actually play in case of injuries and you would foster competition on the line. All the front office has done is put 4 average-to-below average players on the line that can’t generate a pass rush. Which in turn hurts the defense overall because the defense relies heavily on a four man rush to get pressure to force turnovers. Without the pass rush, the quarterback can then pick this defense apart all game long.
It’s too late for this season, all you can hope for is that Ware can come back in a short amount of time and help Hatcher and the others get some kind of pass rush going. That is about as much as they can do right now. They will have to address this with their first pick in the draft if a great defensive line player falls to them. With Ware aging and the threat of Spencer and Hatcher leaving in free agency, this is the most important time to strike on an impact player in the draft.
If they don’t, the defense will continue to falter and the team won’t gain any traction in the NFC. The window for the core of the team is about to be shutdown.