If there is one thing that Monte Kiffin’s scheme asks for, it’s getting constant unrelenting pressure on the opposing quarterback; an area in which our ‘Boys must be far more consistent going forward into 2013. And that constant pressure derives from the defensive line. Now one could argue that safety (my projected third round pick from last week) is a bigger need than defensive line. With the quality depth at both positions, it’s a valid argument.
Nov 18, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff (90) celebrates making a tackle during the game against the Cleveland Browns at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Browns 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
However, the factors that guide me to selecting a 2nd round defensive lineman as oppose to a 2nd round safety are twofold: the collective age of our current starting defensive line (Ware, Spencer and Ratliff are all 29 or older) and the glaring confidence the Cowboys brass have in projected starting safeties Barry Church and 2012 fourth-round pick Matt Johnson.
As I have mentioned before, I firmly believe the change back to a 4-3 alignment will greatly help the overall production of our front seven (that along with incoming defensive gurus Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli. Last season’s 3-4 outside linebackers, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, will revert back to their college positions of defensive end. With both players rushing the quarterback on every snap, only good things can happen. What still remains a question rather is exactly what position the other defensive linemen will play.
Back-up defensive end or starting and/or back-up defensive tackle (either the 1-technique or 3-technigue spot). That’s the decision Kiffin and Marinelli will have to decide regarding the list of players that include; Sean Lissemore, Jason Hatcher, Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass and even Rob Callaway. Either way, those decisions will likely be made come July when the pads come on (training camp is scheduled to open July 19th with our ‘Boys playing five preseason games this year).
And who knows what the future holds for Josh Brent (who WAS expected to be a capable back-up tackle behind Ratliff)? Currently wearing a fashionable electronic ankle bracelet, his trial date for charges of intoxication manslaughter is set for September 23rd and could face a maximum of 20 years in prison. Ratliff is expected to play the 3-technique while a bigger man will likely play the 1-technique in Kiffin’s system.
So with the age of the starters, the uncertainty of the overall group, the scheme change from a 3-4 to a 4-3, the fact that Anthony Spencer has not signed a long-term deal yet and could therefore still be traded, AND the impending court date for Josh Brent; it would make sense to add a quality young defensive lineman to the current group and give Kiffin and Marinelli a brand new toy to play with. And with the current draft class, there will be an abundance of talent to choose from in the 2nd round.
By the time we are on the clock with the 47th overall pick, there will undoubtedly be some big names already off the board. Edge rushers like BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah, Florida State’s Bjoern Werner, Oregon’s Dion Jordan and LSU’s Barkevious Mingo will all be long gone. Expect to also see inside guys like Florida’s Sharrif Floyd, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson, and even possibly UNC’s Sylvester Williams go off the board on the first day.
Does this mean there will not be starters available in the 2nd round? Does this mean Dallas fans won’t recognize the name of our 2nd round draft pick? Of course not; it just means we have to hit on whoever we select. Now I do believe our starting front four in 2013 will consist of defensive ends DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, and defensive tackles Jay Ratliff and more than likely Jason Hatcher (unless Sean Lissemore beats him out) manning the other inside spot given his position flexibility. So unless our 2nd round defensive lineman just comes in and completely overwhelms expectations and impresses the coaching staff enough, he will not then need to be an immediate starter in 2013.
It would be hard to imagine a rookie coming in and supplanting either Jay Ratliff or Jason Hatcher for a starting spot in 2013. Now 2014 is a whole other story. Whoever it is with the 47th pick, they need to be able and willing to compete for a spot come next season.
With that 47th pick, we could go a number of different ways…