IRVING, Texas — In my experience of working in personnel offices around the NFL this time of year, as a staff you are working hard to eliminate the unknowns for your squad.
There are always going to be questions whether you have the numbers (see the current Dallas Cowboys roster) and depth to get you through training camp in July and into August. The last thing you want to happen during camp is to get caught short if you have a run of bad luck with injuries.
The Dallas Cowboys effort in addressing the situation with their defensive line has been well documented this offseason. This front office has spent resources in adding Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey, Anthony Spencer and Amobi Okoye through free agency, as well as used the selections of DeMarcus Lawrence, Ben Gardner and Ken Bishop in the 2014 NFL Draft to try and bolster this line.
To borrow a Jason Garrett phrase, now begins the process of taking all these pieces and fitting them into the scheme. What is interesting, depending on who you are talking within the front office or on the coaching staff, is that all of this is still very much up in the air — how and where all these pieces fit together.
What we do know is that they have given coaches Rod Marinelli, Leon Lett, and Ben Bloom some nice flexibility along the line. When you take a look at the names: Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain, Ben Bass, Amobi Okoye and Davon Coleman can all line up at either of these defensive tackle positions. George Selvie, Jeremy Mincey and, if healthy, Anthony Spencer can line up on either side at defensive end. The only real given is that Nick Hayden will always be at the one technique with DeMarcus Lawrence and Martez Wilson at the right end.
I mentioned Spencer as part of this group, with the provision of his health. Even if he were to work his way back onto this roster, my gut feeling is that you will not be getting the same player that you observed two seasons ago when he was the best player in the front seven for Rob Ryan. There is really no guarantee with him but if he can somehow get that knee back in working order, the best case scenario for the club would to have him as a rotational player. Most likely as a situational pass rusher.
What I feel like will be the one major advantage of having all these numbers it will allow these coaches to work with DeMarcus Lawrence and put him in situations where he does not have to start at defensive end initially.
What we should look forward to each day in training camp is how he is grasping NFL pass rush technique. There are going to be snaps where Tyron Smith is going to make him look silly in one-on-one pass rush drills but that is to be expected. The key for Lawrence will be not to get frustrated during those times but continue to work on his technique and also develop a plan in how he is going to attack these tackles. A rusher without a plan does very little in this league.
Speaking of a plan, next Tuesday we will have our first opportunity to see these rookies work with the veterans in the first Dallas Cowboys OTA practice. There are always initial clues to what the coaches are thinking about when it comes to their position by how they line these guys up.
Expect George Selvie and Jeremy Mincey at the ends with Henry Melton and Nick Hayden at the tackles to start, then it’s anyone’s guess. The questions will be where Tyrone Crawford lines up first — at tackle or end? Between Terrell McClain and Amobi Okoye, who plays as the under tackle or the nose? Next week’s practices will give us a much better idea of how this might all fit together.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Former Professional Scout
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