The way free agency has unfolded for the Dallas Cowboys, the team’s most important person in 2016 could be defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
To say that the Dallas Cowboys must improve the team’s pass rush in 2016 is as obvious as saying that a fish needs water to survive. Yet, many fans are concerned about the organization’s unwillingness to add high profiled players to the defensive line but fans should not overlook what Dallas Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli can do with a group of undervalued but hard-working defensive linemen.
Thus far, the Cowboys have added only two new players to the team’s defensive line. On March 10th, Dallas signed defensive tackle Cedric Thornton to a 4-year deal and on Tuesday America’s Team learned that the Oakland Raiders would not match Dallas’ contract offer to defensive end Benson Mayowa.
The only other moves the team seems poised to make on the defensive line are the resigning of defensive tackle Jack Crawford and the drafting of rookie defensive linemen in next moth’s NFL Draft. Most predict that Dallas will draft Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa with the fourth pick in the draft and even if that comes to fruition there will be no stars on the 2016 Dallas Cowboys defensive line.
This is where defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli must be at his best. The long-time NFL coach has built his reputation on his ability to coach defensive linemen and the 2016 Cowboys may need him to do his best coaching job yet.
After entering the NFL coaching ranks in 1996 as the defensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Marinelli quickly garnered praise for his work with the young Buccaneers’ pass rushers. While in Tampa Bay, Marinelli groomed second-year defensive tackle Warren Sapp, a 2013 Pro Football Inductee and a young defensive end named Simeon Rice who would be named a four-time All-Pro honoree.
With Rod Marinelli on staff, the Buccaneers recorded the most sacks of any team in the NFL. He would then spend three unsuccessful years (2006-2008) as the head coach of the Detroit Lions having the distinction of being the head coach of the first team to ever go 0-16 in a season (2008).
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Following his forgettable run in Detroit, Marinelli joined the Chicago Bears’ staff eventually becoming the defensive coordinator in 2010. While coordinating the Bears’ defense from 2010 – 2012, his defenses ranked ninth, seventeenth and fifth respectively. Link
Cowboys’ fans saw what Rod Marinelli can do with a no-name defense in 2014 when he was promoted to defensive coordinator after serving as defensive line coach with the team in 2013. Under previous coordinator Monte Kiffin, the Cowboys fielded the worst statistical defense in the organization’s history but in Marinelli’s first season in charge the defense ranked 14th overall in the league.
"”He made our players better. He made our coaches better,”Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett said of Marinelli following the 2015 season. Link"
Skeptics will point out that in 2015, Marinelli’s defense ranked only 17th in the league and recorded a meager 31 sacks. However, a closer look at which players recorded the majority of the Cowboys sacks reveals the good work Rod Marinelli did last season.
The team was led by second-year defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence who had eight sacks. The 2014 second round draft pick from Boise State had a disappointing rookie season recording no sacks in the regular season after missing the first nine games of the year.
In 2015, Lawrence finished the season strong recording seven sacks in the Cowboys’ final eight games. His work with Marinelli seems to be paying off, as has the work of a previously unknown NFL long shot.
Fourth-year defensive tackle Jack Crawford of London, England blossomed in his second season under Rod Marinelli. Crawford doubled his sack total in 2015 recording a career-best four, good for the fourth-best total on the team.
It appears that the Cowboys are creating a defensive line that will need Marinelli’s expertise. If the Dallas pass rush is to be improved in 2016, that improvement will come from a group of young, hungry and high energy defensive linemen which is the kind of player that Rod Marinelli seems to get the most out of.