MEET YOUR NEW DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Pro scouting report on DT Henry Melton | Tuning up Marinelli’s Motor | Dallas Cowboys free agency 2014
Henry Melton | Defensive Tackle | Texas | Height/Weight: 6-3, 295
Drafted: Fourth round, No. 101 overall, 2009 NFL Draft by Chicago
Games Studied: 2013: Cincinnati, Minnesota 2012: Dallas, Houston, San Francisco
Melton was a much better player in his 2012 film than he was in 2013. He didn’t show the same explosive quickness and get-off that he did two seasons ago. Under Rod Marinelli as the defensive coordinator, he was on the move more, and this is where Melton thrives. When he can get on the outside shoulder of the guard and attack the gap, he can be difficult to block. Before his knee injury against the Steelers in 2013, you didn’t see this type of use in the scheme. He played slow and sluggish.
Simply put, he didn’t even look like the same player. There were too many snaps where he didn’t come off the ball, and where he put that pressure on the blocker. There were times where he was washed out of the play, knocked to the ground and was a non-factor.
When Melton is really on a roll, you can see blockers have to reach for him to try and block. He can put them in bad positions with just his first step. He’ll make blockers overextend and lose their balance. He has a feel for how to make himself small when he is on the move in the pass rush.
He’s one of those players you want to play line games with because of this ability. The second you get him a little space, he is tight to pick and around the edge. In 2012, he had a sack against the Dallas Cowboys in that exact situation.
This is one of those defensive tackles that can throw pass-rush moves as he is going up the field. He makes a quick arm-over move and then he is gone. He’s slippery when working toward and through the hole. He’s also a really nice space player, and he can change directions with the best of them.
The tape also shows that Melton’s lateral movement and quickness are outstanding. If the ball goes away from him, can really flatten down the line and chase after it. He makes it hard for blockers to keep up with him, and he shows the ability to beat the reach block with his quickness. In that sense, he does a nice job of reading blocks on the move.
If there’s one big problem to his game, it’s when he gets caught rushing down the middle of the blocker and he gets stuck. Where blockers have success against him is when they can get him to stop his feet –then he gets in a bind. Movement is such a big part of his game, it’s hard for him to get going again once he stops.
This happened to him more in 2013 than 2012. He’s not the type of player who plays with the power to beat double team blocks. He will extend his hands, but he’s not going to be able to stand in there toe-to-toe with blockers and slug it out.
Where he might get in trouble is when he tries to jump around blocks and he will leave holes.
It was amazing how different Melton’s film was between the two seasons. In talking with him on Wednesday, he spoke about Rod Marinelli working with him to get himself right again, so even in his own mind, he knows that he was a better player and that is the level he needs to play at for this to all work.
RELATED: Henry Melton eager to become the motor that drives Marinelli’s defense
IRVING, Texas – From the time it became clear the Dallas Cowboys might need a new three-technique defensive tackle, Henry Melton seemed like a logical option.
The Chicago Bears Pro Bowler was a free agent, was coming off an ACL injury and he was from the Dallas area – it made sense. But perhaps Melton’s most-discussed tie to the Cowboys was his relationship with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Melton enjoyed the best seasons of his career under Marinelli’s watch in Chicago, posting a combined 13 sacks in 2011 and 2012 and earning his only trip to the Pro Bowl.
It’s one thing to suppose the Dallas-area native would want to reunite with his old coach – it’s another thing to hear it from the man himself.
“Once I reconnected with Rod – he did some good recruiting. It was a pretty easy decision,” Melton said.
One need only look at the Cowboys’ roster to see why Marinelli was so set on reuniting with his former star. Jason Hatcher signed a free agent deal that left the Cowboys without those 11 sacks and it left them without a true three-technique defensive tackle.
In Marinelli’s system, the three-technique is referred to by many as the motor that drives the defense – a crucial element of the pass rush. Melton’s familiar with the role, and he said he’s ready to take it on once again.
“I’m familiar with the system, I know what it demands and they want me to be the guy. I’m accepting the position,” he said.
Who Melton will line up with is still a matter of some speculation. The Cowboys have now replaced one Pro Bowl defensive tackle with another, but there’s still the absence of All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Ware to consider.
Dallas signed journeymen Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain to free agent deals last week, and Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass are set to return from injury in 2014. Two of last season’s starters, Nick Hayden and George Selvie, also return. But it remains to be seen how all of those pieces, including potential draft picks, will translate to a productive defensive line.
That didn’t seem to faze Melton, however, who said he’s eager to embrace the challenge – starting with a return to his Pro Bowl form from 2012.
“I think if I’m dominant and playing the way I know I can, and Rod gets me right and the defense is flying around, this team is really close to doing something special,” Melton said.
If there was any doubt about Melton’s excitement about the reunion, his conversation gives it away. The University of Texas standout mentioned Marinelli at nearly every turn, even allowing that he went to dinner with Marinelli on Monday night, the day before he and the Cowboys agreed to terms.
“He’s tough on you, but the thing about Rod is he cares about you as a person,” Melton said. “He wants to see you succeed, and you can sense that about him. I’m just happy to be here and work with him.”
The expectation is Melton will be healthy and ready to go when the Dallas Cowboys report to training camp in Oxnard, Calif. Having Marinelli alongside to push him can only raise those expectations higher.
“It gives me great confidence,” Melton said. “I know what the position demands, I know what the schemes are and I know Rod – how demanding he is. It’s going to be fun.”
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: 1-on-1 interview with DT Henry Melton, your newest Dallas Cowboy | NFL Free Agency 2014
Meet Henry Melton | “This Was The Best Fit For Me” | 3:41
IRVING, Texas – Henry Melton officially signed his one-year contract with a three-year team option today in Dallas at Valley Ranch.
The Dallas Cowboys new three-technique defensive tackle, who agreed to terms with the Cowboys on Tuesday, believes he should be ready to roll fully by training camp after an ACL injury ended his 2013 season early.
“Anybody that checks me out and looks at my knee, they’re all saying training camp is a good day,” Melton said.
That’s good news for the Cowboys, who just picked up the defensive tackle widely regarded as the best player left in free agency at his position.
The Cowboys signed Melton believing he can get back to being the player who accumulated seven sacks in 2011 and six sacks in 2012, but the unique contract Melton signed gives the team some protection. Melton, who’s from the Dallas area and went to high school in nearby Grapevine, Texas, will only count $2.75 million against the cap with a $1.25 base salary in 2014 and can earn up to $5 million this year.
If Melton proves himself worthy by getting back to his Pro Bowl level of play and is on the roster by the start of the 2015 season, the team can exercise their three-year option. That’ll raise Melton’s price tag, give him reportedly $9 million in guaranteed money and allow him to get paid on par with some of the top defensive tackles in the league.
Melton knows he has to earn that three-year option or risk returning to free agency, and that doesn’t bother him. He said this year in Dallas is a proving ground, and pairing back up with Rod Marinelli, his former defensive coordinator during his best years in Chicago, adds to his faith he can return to form.
“It’s like you’re betting on yourself,” Melton said. “I feel like with me and my rehab and coming back with Rod and the good defense that’s here, I can get back to that form. I believe in that, and obviously they believe in me to get it done.”
Melton had surgery on his knee in October, but he’s already sprinting and lifting and gradually working his way back into shape. He’s five and a half months removed from the surgery, and he said every team he visited, including the doctors in Dallas, said he’s on track with where he needs to be to return for training camp.
Despite the injury, Melton still garnered significant interest in free agency and made visits to the Vikings and the Seahawks before coming to Dallas. He said he didn’t know what to expect in terms of offers from teams when he entered free agency off the knee injury, but he wasn’t worried about it.
“God has a plan for everybody,” Melton said. “It was all out of my hands. My agent really didn’t know what the market value was. We were just going to visit some teams, see where everyone’s heads were at. I came here and pretty much fell in love, so that was the end of that story.”
Melton also had a visit set up with the Rams after leaving Dallas with no deal, but he said he knew when he visited the Cowboys that he wanted to be in Dallas.
“They really wanted me to come,” Melton said. “I looked at what I can do here and what they’re trying to build here.”
Melton said Dallas felt familiar, from the actual surroundings to the defensive system he’ll be playing in. After losing DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher in free agency, the Cowboys need to rely on Melton as the primary disruptive force in the middle.
The Dallas Cowboys saw at home, in first person, what Melton was capable of doing to an offensive line. Melton began his Pro Bowl 2012 season with four sacks in the first three games, including one on Tony Romo at AT&T Stadium.
“I had about 30 people there,” Melton recalled. “The atmosphere there is just crazy. I was back home and everything was just clicking. It was a great game.”
At only 27, The Dallas Cowboys hope he’s still got many more of those left in the tank.
MELTON REUNITES WITH MARINELLI: Dallas Cowboys add defensive tackle Henry Melton | NFL Free Agency 2014
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys agreed to terms with defensive tackle Henry Melton late tonight.
The contract is reportedly a one-year deal with a club option for three more, depending on Melton’s performance in 2014. The price figures to be a bit lower than expected for one of the league’s top defensive tackles, as Melton missed the majority of 2013 with an ACL injury. Financial details have not been disclosed, but Melton’s price tag would increase if he is brought back.
The deal brings Melton to Dallas from the Chicago Bears, who drafted him No. 101 overall in 2009.
The news makes Melton the Cowboys’ first big acquisition of free agency, after a tumultuous week saw the team part ways with Pro Bowlers DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, and Miles Austin at the outset of free agency.
The move means Melton, who is from nearby Grapevine, Texas, and is a University of Texas product, is not just returning to his home state, but is reuniting with former coach Rod Marinelli. The Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator held the same position with the Chicago Bears, where he oversaw Melton’s lone Pro Bowl season in 2012.
Melton will take Hatcher’s place as the three-technique defensive tackle in Marinelli’s 4-3 defensive front. The five-year veteran enjoyed the best years of his career from that spot, compiling a total of 68 tackles and 13 sacks in 2012 and 2013.
The injury ended Melton’s 2013 season in Week 3, as he was carted off the field during Chicago’s 40-23 win against Pittsburgh on Sept. 22.
The three-technique is the motor of Marinelli’s pass rush, to paraphrase the man himself. His purpose is to collapse the pocket and get to the quarterback, as evidenced by Hatcher in his first season playing for Marinelli and then-defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
With Hatcher entering free agency, it was widely speculated the Cowboys would pursue Marinelli’s old player, who many thought could be added for a lower price because of the injury. When the Cowboys released Ware and Hatcher signed a four-year, $27 million contract with Washington, the pressure to secure a pass rusher increased.
It remains to be seen how the addition of Melton affects the team’s pursuit of All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen, who visited Valley Ranch today. The Cowboys have roughly $7 million in salary cap room to work with, so signing both could be feasible given the right deals.
Allen returned to Minnesota on Tuesday to be with his family, as his wife is expecting the couple’s second child.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys agree to one-year deal with DT Henry Melton
The Dallas Cowboys and Henry Melton have agreed to a one-year deal with an option. Melton’s signing will ease the sting of losing Jason Hatcher last week.
The Grapevine product arrived for a visit yesterday. He had dinner with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli last night. Though he left for St. Louis today without a contract, it didn’t take the Dallas Cowboys long to get him in the fold.
Melton revealed his choice on Twitter, “Thank you Chicago for the best 5 years of my life!…. I can’t wait to begin the next chapter of my life… With a star on my helmet.”
Melton, 27, played only three games last season after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his left knee in October. But in four seasons, he has 15.5 sacks.
Melton replaces Hatcher, who signed with the Redskins last week, having played the three-technique for Marinelli when Marinelli was defensive coordinator of the Bears. Melton earned Pro Bowl honors in 2012 playing for Marinelli, and the Bears used the franchise tag on Melton in 2013, paying him $8.45 million.
The former UT product’s signing is good news for the Cowboys.
Jarod Allen left Valley Ranch without a contract and returned home to discuss his options with his wife. But with Melton on the defensive line, the Dallas Cowboys chances of improving their pass rush, and their defense, have improved.