Are the Cowboys relying too heavily on Rod Marinelli?

Nov 27, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Philadelphia beat Dallas 33-10. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Philadelphia beat Dallas 33-10. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Are the Dallas Cowboys relying far too heavily on the coaching of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli over adding real difference makers to their defense?

It’s no secret that coaches in the NFL heavily influence a team’s draft and free agent choices. Their knowledge combined with the vast information provided by an effective scouting department help build the foundation onto which a team’s roster is built.

In the case of the Dallas Cowboys, head coach Jason Garrett, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli are likely three of the most trusted voices in the Cowboys draft war room and front office. And obviously, they want players that are coachable and fit their scheme.

But in a recent podcast on, the idea that the Cowboys might be relying a little too heavily on coach Marinelli’s reputation for getting the most effort out of less talented players was postulated as a reason why the team hasn’t possibly done enough to address obvious needs on that side of the ball.

"“Too much faith in Marinelli and Leon Lett maybe?” asked former scout Bryan Broaddus during the latest episode of the Cowboys Break on the team’s official website earlier this week. “Yeah, a lot of faith. I think these scouts and the front office are saying ‘Hey Rod, Leon. Who do you guys like? Who do you guys like up there?’ Sometimes you rely on a coach a little bit…they did it with Hudson Hawk for a long time too and it just didn’t work out.”"

Due to injuries and suspensions, there is a distinct possibility the Cowboys could have three new starters along their defensive line when their regular season starts on September 11th. With both defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence serving four-game suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policies, newcomers like restricted free agent signee Benson Mayowa and fourth round rookie Charles Tapper could be asked to be the starters on day one.

Second-year defensive end Ryan Russell, who was active all of one game last season, could be thrust into a starting role as well. There has also been talk of moving sophomore defensive tackle David Irving outside to end, as well as veteran back-up Jack Crawford.

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It seems it would behoove the Cowboys to try and find a veteran or two in free agency to help secure the position until Lawrence and Gregory can return. But executive vice president Stephen Jones says the team is not current pursuing free agents as they want to see what this young group of unproven players can do.

So there is a possibility the Cowboys starting defensive line could be made up of some combination of Tapper, Russell, Mayowa, Crawford and Irving combined with veteran defensive tackles Tyrone Crawford and free agent Cedric Thornton.

The point is, this is a relative list of unknowns. The Cowboys are relying on Marinelli’s coaching abilities this offseason to elevate some of these players to starter status. It doesn’t bode well for a team that has struggled defensively under the coordinator that is entering his 30th season in the NFL.

As the Cowboys defensive line coach in 2013, Dallas ranked dead last in total defense allowing a whopping 415.3 net offensive yards per game to opponents. Taking over as defensive coordinator in 2014, the Cowboys defenses have finished 19th and 17th respectively. And many credit Marinelli’s coaching for the improvement.

But Dallas did finish a lowly 4-12 last season. And the Cowboys defense, specifically their inconsistent pass rush and lack of turnovers, played a major role in the decline of America’s Team in 2015.

But the question here is are the Cowboys really too heavily on Marinelli to make average players great instead of adding great players to the roster? There is little doubt the 66-year old ball coach is a defensive guru. But even Marinelli’s vast coaching abilities and knowledge may be put to the test this season.

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