Sep 9, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears defensive end Henry Melton (69) sacks Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) during the second half at Soldier Field. The Bears won 41-21. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys Line Still Missing Key Piece

January 25, 2013; Ko Olina, HI, USA; NFC defensive tackle Henry Melton of the Chicago Bears (69) looks on during practice at NFC media day for the 2013 Pro Bowl at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

If there is any one thing that can be said about the Dallas Cowboys activity during the offseason, it would be this:

The defensive line has been a point of emphasis.

For better or worse, the Cowboys have made the line a focal point during the first two weeks of free agency.  Saying goodbye to lifetime Cowboys such as Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware was difficult, painful but financially necessary.  As with most goodbye’s however, there was a hello as well.  Just a few days ago, former Bear defensive tackle Henry Melton agreed to terms with Dallas. Melton was a huge signing for the Cowboys, mostly because he was the best available player out there.  It does not hurt that he is young and hungry to prove that he can be a Pro-Bowl player again, especially when coupled with the tutelage of his former line coach, now defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

But what are we to make of these changes to the roster?  Should we be happy as fans?  Are we better?  Is there more to come?

Let’s address some of these questions to get an accurate view of what we’re working with.

On August 31, 2013, as final cuts to the roster were being made, nine lineman were kept on the final 53 man team (not including Tyrone Crawford and Jay Ratliff who both never played a down in 2013).  As the Cowboys prepared for their week one matchup with the New York Giants, one of those nine, Ben Bass was lost for the year with a shoulder injury.  So the scramble began.

An unprecedented, SEVENTEEN different lineman (counting Kyle Wilber who was moved to LB when injuries got ridiculous there) suited up and played at least one game last year.  George Selvie, Nick Hayden and Kyle Wilber played all 16 games.  Hatcher missed only one game.  That injury riddled, unproductive Ware guy (seeping with sarcasm) missed two.  Then comes the guys most people never even knew existed until last season.

Drake Nevis played in eleven games.  Jarius Wynn played in ten.  Everette Brown, Edgar Jones and Caesar Rayford saw action in seven games.  Corvey Irvin played in six, while David Carter (3), Landon Cohen, Frank Kearse and Jason Vega (2) all got a paycheck from the Cowboys too.  Even Marvin Austin and the truly unproductive, overpaid Anthony Spencer got one game in.

Let us all take a moment and sacrifice something to the Football Gods to make sure something like this never happens again.

Hopefully, Dallas will not need seventeen different guys again.  Usually, only between seven and nine guys make the game day 46-man cut (depending on opponent and scheme) on the defensive line.  Currently, the roster has ten players under contract on the line.  Another three who were with the team last season and are unsigned free agents at the time of this article (Edgar Jones, Anthony Spencer and Jarius Wynn).  Separated in groups of tackle or end and ranked top to bottom, this is what we’re working with so far…

Henry Melton DT
Nick Hayden DT
Ben Bass DT
Terrell McClain DT
Frank Kearse DT

George Selvie DE
Jeremy Mincey DE
Tyrone Crawford DE
Caesar Rayford DE
Tristan Okpalaugo DE

I feel like the signings of Melton and McClain, along with the return of Ben Bass all but guarantee those of you hoping to see Pitt’s Aaron Donald walk up to shake Commissioner Goodell’s hand on May 8th with a Cowboys hat on can forget that dream.  Not because it wouldn’t be really nice to have a young beast next to Melton, or insurance in case he really isn’t as good as advertised but because of the massively gaping hole at defensive end.

Mincey is actually the leader in the career sack clubhouse right now with 20… or one half of a sack better than what DeMarcus Ware had for a season in 2011.  Next up is George Selvie, with ten… seven of which came last year.  The other three guys have as many career sacks in the NFL as you and I do.  So while Donald would be great, if the Cowboys have don’t have any bullets left in their free agency pistol, the draft will need to address this huge need.  If they do still intend to do some shopping prior to the draft, there are a few intriguing names out there.  Guys like Will Smith (67.5 career sacks) and Shaun Phillips (79.5 career sacks) would be perfect veteran fits as edge rushers who should come a lot cheaper than Jared Allen or less of a risk than Spencer is.

It is clear this unit is in need of at least one more guy to go after the quarterback.  Whether it’s through the draft or in free agency, the defensive line is still missing a piece or two but it is certainly looking better now that Melton’s in the mix.  We aren’t there yet, but finally, things look to be going in the right direction.

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Tags: Anthony Spencer Ben Bass Dallas Cowboys DeMarcus Ware George Selvie Henry Melton Jason Hatcher

  • Scott.

    I disagree with you about passing up on Donald if he is there. He probably will not be there the way his stock has vaulted. I think they can draft him, get him some experience and he can take over for Melton in 2015. Then they can cut Melton and save 8-9 million while paying a starter their rookie contract. They will need that money for Smith and Bryant. Just a thought.

    • Albert Smith

      Scott you’re right on the money, given the option of having a cheaper player, & how hard it is to come by the 3 technique Donald should be the pick. Plus you have the option to build depth if Melton does play well & if he doesn’t he’s cut without a problem.

  • SmartThinking

    When it comes to the topic of fixing the defense (everyone knows my choice for Round one or two should be an OG) I don’t think there’s anybody within the draft range for Dallas a better fit for this team than Hageman. He’s big, fast, mean and can play multiple positions in a pinch. The need is not just a DE but a WDE. Hageman, over most of the other DE’s in this draft has, in my opinion, the speed and power to dominate and create double teams against him.

    The knock seems to be he’s lazy or under coached or needs specific training. What he brings is a raw, unbridled talent for knocking down QB’s, something this team needs more than another DT. Besides, once Marinelli gets hold of him, all that stuff will disappear quickly.

    He’s the guy Dallas should focus on.

  • Old Frog

    Hope the subtext of this article is that Martin and Su’a-Filo are still in the mix

  • Bware


  • Dynasty

    Ealy looks stronger than ware but Donald is the playmaker in the middle that we need for when Melton gets injured or doesn’t live up to the hype.

    • David

      LOL and how do you know Donald is going to live up to the hype. And if he was as good as the fans seem to think, then why is he not a top 10 pick???

      • Dynasty

        I knew it!!! You can’t even tell wether a player is good or not,wether he fits or not.Smh…..that good that he might go top 10 …..duHH

        • David

          You knew what genius. That he is a great player in college for Pitt and their mighty schedule. Give me an fn break already. Yeah he might go in the top ten. He also might not go until the mid 20′s because of scheme fit..You act like he is fn Suh.

  • ctcowboy1968

    Donald should be the pick. If the Bears don’t take him at 14 , then we must. Donald is the future. Rotate him in 2014. If Donald isn’t there at 16, then take Jernigan, DE or Hageman.

  • David

    Dallas has signed 3 D-lineman in FA. They signed Melton to anchor ther all important3 tech position. That now gives Dallas in no particular order, Selvie, Crawford, Bass, Hayden, Melton, McClain, Mincey and about 3 other guys who may or may not make the team. Marinelli has already said he wants to use an 8 or 9 guy rotation to always have fresh legs. So my point and question to other Boys fans, is why would they take a player like Donald with the 16th pick to be a back up to Melton. Also why would they take a Jernigan who will play the 1 tech and also be a part time 2 down player. They passed on Floyd last year for the same reason. If the Cowboys did not have huge holes at Safety and LB I could see the argument. But they do have huge holes particularly at Safety. I would rather see them take a Dix or Pryor at 16 and then go after a DE in the 2nd round. Say grab a Crichton or Murphy or even a Ford or Kony if they fall because they each have flaws in their game. The FS is one of 6 key positions in the Tampa 2 hybrid the Cowboys run. So if they keep going with what they have at Safety they will be in trouble and I dont care how good the D-line is.

    • Dynasty

      No way Donald is Melton’s back up.He will take over the 3 tech and allow us to not overpay Melton,but release him.Releasing Melton in 2015 automatically helps us cap wise and allows us to sign our OWN stars.(David) it all starts and ends in the trenches(offensive line and defensive line)no pressure on opposing qbs and we will never get to see the true potential and value of players like Claiborne,Carr,Wilcox,Heath,Matt Johnson,Jakar Hamilton etc…..Pressure on opposing Qbs is a MUST in order to become a Great Defense (Doomsday Defense) (;

      • David

        First of all if you think they signed Melto to just release him a year from now if he returns to his pro bowl form, you are delirious. And why do you think they released Ware. Thats saves them about 25 million over the next two years. And if you think a great D-line is magically going to make the secondary particularly the Safeties great then again you are delirious. Who do you think nixed the Floyd pick last year. It was Marineli because you dont draft a 0/1 tech who will be a 2 down player with the 1st round pick. I suggest you study up on the 6 most importnat players in the Tampa 2 system. And lastly they have signed 3 FA D-lineman and have Crawford and Bass coming back from injury. And like i said any D-lineman they draft will be a rotational player. So you want to spend the 16th pick on a rotational player when there is huge needs at Safety and LB???

        • Dynasty

          I suggest you understand the importance and meaning of rush men.I won’t waste my time trying to make you understand.Its the NFL and anything can happen (run out of depth on the defensive line)so no I don’t think Donald will just b a back up,Melton is not a sure thing but go ahead and think you know better:p

          • David

            I suggest you study up on the key positions of the Tampa 2 they are running. Yeah and anything can happen. Donald could be a bust because of his shorter arm length. They signed Melton because he was a pro bowler in his last full season. They checked him out healthy. So let him play and focus on the other huge needs of this Tampa 2 defense. Give me a break already. And Donald would be a rotational player with Melton. They sure as hell are not moving one of those guys to the 1 tech.

          • Dynasty

            Shorter arm length…

    • Dynasty

      Delirious lol thinking ealy will be there 2nd round lmao And again,CORNERS AND SAFETYS,can’t cover for ever waiting on the pass rush!!! You sure are something else….

      • David

        First of all I said he was one of a handfull sthat could be there in the 2nd round. Im sorry other than he is full of “potential”, what exactly has he done again. He may go in the mid to late 1st round there is no doubt. But he could also slide as well because a lot of teams dont beleive in drafting “potential” guys in the 1st round. You crack me up that thinking just a great pass rush can turn horrible to average players in to all-pros. The Niners safeties were pretty fn good but when they played teams with very good O-lines how did that work out. Freaking Carson Palmer put up 400 yards on them in the last game and nearly won. So please learn the fn game.