A recent history of Dallas Cowboys defensive tackles, one techniques

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03: Terrell McClain #97 of the Dallas Cowboys during a preseason game on September 3, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03: Terrell McClain #97 of the Dallas Cowboys during a preseason game on September 3, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys do not have any big named talent on the roster for the defensive tackle at the one technique. But are we blowing this out of proportion?

The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2018 training camp with many questions yet to be answered. Amongst one of the most questioned position groups is the interior defensive line, especially the one technique.

With the Cowboys seemingly set at the three-technique when healthy, fans are looking towards a run stuffing interior player to fill in the role opposite the more upfield rushing three-tech. But without a traditional big named guy manning the position, many people are skeptical the team will be able to stop the run. I am not.

Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli has his flaws, but his biggest strength lies in his ability to coach defensive lineman. With defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard getting more responsibility as Marinelli heads into his twilight years, Rod’s able to do what he loves most. Almost every year Marinelli has been here, he has been able to coach up a defensive lineman from nobody to productive starter.

From lineman George Selvie to current lineman David Irving, Marinelli has had a knack for getting the most out of players. Whether it’s assessing their strengths and placing them in a position they can thrive in or motivating the heck out of them, Marinelli has a system in place that allows him to see talent and foster it.

In regards to the one technique position, Marinelli prefers quick penetrators over guys who just weigh a lot. The team sees the league trending towards speed, spreads, and RPO’s (run-pass options). With versatility and movement becoming paramount in today’s NFL, the team has a vision for the specific traits it’s looking for in the position.

In his last two years, Marinelli’s defenses ranked first (2016) & eighth (2017) in rushing yards allowed. In 2016, Terrell McClain emerged as the player with the necessary traits and helped anchor the best rush defense in football that year. With a line filled with no-names, and as a former no-namer himself, McClain and the rest of the group quietly did what Marinelli’s been able to do frequently; play well without big-name talent.

In 2017, Marinelli brought over Stephen Pae’a from the Chicago Bears to be the one technique. Pae’a thrived in Marinelli’s system when he [Marinelli] was with the Bears. He had the perfect mix of size, quickness, and relentlessness Rod was looking for in his one. And like many of Marinelli’s reclamation projects, he was a victim of playing out of position and out of scheme in his previous home.

Unfortunately, Pae’a was forced to retire due to a degenerative knee condition, thrusting Maliek Collins back into his secondary position. Despite this, the team was able to finish within the top 10 yet again with even less to work with than they started with. If the linebackers stayed healthy also, the eighth-placed finish could have been a top-five finish.

Marinelli has proved time and time again that he doesn’t need an All-Pro or 340 pounder inside to be effective. He just needs guys with the traits he sees as important for his scheme. With a group including the underrated Brian Price, physically gifted Jihad Ward, and more traditional guys like Richard Ash and Antwuan Woods; expect one or multiple to step up and turn this “weakness” into an afterthought.

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Fans want to create an issue with a position the team doesn’t see an issue with. Traditional one techniques are not what this team is looking for, it’s time to understand that Marinelli has what he wants barring injury. I trust Marinelli to have whoever is opening the season as the one technique ready.