The Dallas Cowboys had a horrible defense in 2013. According to Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas, the Cowboys played 20 different defensive linemen in 2013. When you have that many guys playing for your team you know you’re in trouble, and that’s exactly what Dallas had last year. So it begs the question, “Have the Cowboys done enough this offseason to improve over last season?” When you’re as bad as they were last year, you would have to say yes. Let’s look at it a little deeper and see if they are really better off.
Free Agency gave Dallas the first shot at upgrading and filling holes. Four players inked deals with Big D; Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain, Henry Melton, and Anthony Spencer. Melton and Spencer are the only two that have starting experience and are even projected to start for that matter. Given the given the cap issues Dallas is always plagued with, none of this is a surprise. At the same time, significant change doesn’t come from injured players like Spencer and Melton, or rotational guys like McClain or Mincey. Not usually.
The next shot the Cowboys had was during last week’s Draft. One solid way to get over the hump is to draft smart and get guys that can come in and help right away. The key is not reaching on players, but only time will tell if a player that is tagged as a reach, truly is that. Dallas hit the defensive side of the ball pretty hard in the Draft, giving up their second and third-round pick to move up and take Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence in the second round. In the seventh round they picked up Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner and Northern Illinois defensive tackle Ken Bishop. The only player of the group that is projected to make any real impact as a rookie is Lawrence, considering his draft position and the kind of athletic terror he is on the field. The other two, if they make the team, will be rotational players at the very best.
As for the guys coming back from last year, there’s a couple that could take a real step forward in Rod Marinelli’s defensive scheme. Tyron Crawford is coming off a torn Achilles, but showed real promise this time last year. Defensive end George Selvie’s career was resurrected last year when he was brought in to help fill glaring holes on the defensive line, as was the case for defensive tackle Nick Hayden. But is any of this enough? On the surface we see a lot of random players, players coming off injuries, and unproven commodities. How will this be an upgrade over name-brand players like DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher? Strength in numbers and competition Cowboys fans. Rod Marinelli is a master of getting more out of a defensive player than they could have ever realized.
With all of these hungry players looking for a chance to compete, Marinelli has what he wants for a defensive line. It may not seem like much of a defensive line right now, and there may be some growing pains in the first quarter of the season, but this line is being built with the right kind of players by a guy who knows what he’s doing. Trust Marinelli. This defense may surprise you.