Dallas Cowboys Defensive Line Breakdown
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Top Performer: Jason Hatcher
When Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli were brought on board after the conclusion of the 2012 season, their vision of what this defensive line was going to consist of was a four man line of DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, and Jason Hatcher. As they sit today, only Ware and Hatcher are currently in the mix. The offseason ranking of these four players were: Ware, Spencer, Ratliff, and Hatcher.
To his credit, Hatcher has gone far and above what most believed that he could have done. We really wasn’t sure where he was going to play in this scheme, whether that was the one or three technique. Likely, the front office and coaches were having the same thoughts. Few believed he was going to be able to play with enough power at the one. To his credit, he has proven people wrong. That’s not to say that’s his best spot, because at the three he has also done things thought that he couldn’t have done. It was very evident without him in the lineup against the Saints. His ability to help in the run but maybe more importantly, was how well he rushes the passer inside was missing.
What Jason Hatcher has done through his play is make this front office sit up and take notice when it comes to making a decision on his future with this team.
Need More From: DeMarcus Ware
Right or wrong, on the radio show “Talkin’ Cowboys”, DeMarcus Ware was challenged to once again rise up and be the player that we all have seen in seasons gone by. This young defense needs that kind of player.
When Ware was lining up in those practices in Oxnard, it appeared that Ware had turned the clock back five years and this season could turn out to be one of his best ever. Injury has once again robbed him of that opportunity. Ware showed a great deal of guts playing last season at half the player he is capable of being and this year, could very well be the same. As hard as this to say for a player that has given his team so much, he is going to have to dig deeper and find ways to not only be a factor in the running game but be that dominate player against the pass.
This scheme requires pressure from its front four and without that pressure, it is difficult to have success in it. If this team in fact are going to make a run in these last six games and win this division, it is going to be on the shoulders of Sean Lee and DeMarcus Ware. For six games, this defense needs DeMarcus Ware’s very best otherwise we will all be talking about what could have been.
Six-Game Forecast: Defensive linemen cant rely on safety net to stop the run
There have been some difficult games for this defensive line this season. There have also been some times where they have played well and helped this team to a victory. The road doesn’t get much easier with three division games and the matchup with the Bears and Packers remaining.
What worries the most about this group is the ability to get off blocks in the running game especially the last three weeks against the Lions, Vikings and Saints. There have been too many games this season where this defense has allowed offenses to be in manageable down and distance situations because of their inability to hold up against the run. For the next six week, this defensive line is going to be tested each and every snap to have to be physical in playing in the running game and with Sean Lee out at least the next two games, there is not that safety net of him being there to make plays.
This line needs to do a much better job of playing on the other side of the ball like they did against the Redskins and Eagles, which then will help them with their pressure in the passing game.
IRVING, Texas – Dez Bryant is once again working through a back issue, but it didn’t keep him out of todays morning practice.
Bryant was present for the second practice of the week, and he appeared to move well in the early portion of the day’s work. It remains to be seen how involved he will be in the full day’s worth of work, but Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he doesn’t expect the injury to have a significant effect.
“His back was bothering him (Wednesday), we didn’t think he could practice so we didn’t practice him,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett at his Thursday morning press conference. “It’s a health issue that we don’t think is a long-term deal at all. Hopefully he’ll practice today and be ready to go on Sunday.”
Back problems affected Bryant during the 2012 season finale against Washington, and he has dealt with similar problems at times through the first nine weeks of this season.
“It’s bothered him a little bit off and on – I don’t know if it’s the exact same thing, but we don’t think it’s a significant deal.”
IRVING, Texas – There’s not going to be a dramatic game time decision this week –DeMarcus Ware is playing Sunday in New Orleans.
If Ware’s participation in the Dallas Cowboys Wednesday and Thursday practices wasn’t indication enough, the All-Pro defensive end said so himself outside the Dallas locker room.
It’s been roughly a month since Ware left Dallas’ Oct. 13 win against Washington early with a quad injury. His absence – three games’ worth – has to feel like an eternity for a player who had never missed a game prior to this season.
“You get frustrated, but you’ve got to find some type of positive note,” Ware said. “For me, watching the game from the sideline was a little bit different. I see how guys attack us and how they attack me in certain situations, and it’ll make me better coming in this week.”
The parallels to the Cowboys’ last trip to New Orleans couldn’t be more obvious. Four years ago, the Cowboys limped into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with an 8-5 record, having lost two straight, to play an undefeated Saints squad.
To make matters worse, Ware had suffered what appeared to be a devastating injury in San Diego just a week prior. Ware wasn’t just doubtful for the tilt against Drew Brees and Co. – he was doubtful, period.
“I didn’t think I was going to play for a long time, until – sometimes, when you go in certain places, you get certain vibes or you feel a certain way that you can do it,” he said. “And I think you get confidence from your teammates to get out there and play. That’s the way I felt – not letting them down.”
Of course, Ware didn’t just wind up playing – he starred. He sacked Brees twice, pressured him three times and forced two fumbles, the second of which ended New Orleans’ hope of a comeback. The Cowboys used the win to catapult to a 11-5 record and their most recent playoff appearance.
“I think how monumental that game was – it was a big game for us. It was like one of those turn-around-season games,” Ware said. “It was one of those type of things where it was like ‘OK, it’s a blessing to be out here again, from what I went through.”
Brees certainly hasn’t forgotten, and it’s not just the 2009 game, either. In four career meetings against the Saints, Ware has notched 10 tackles, four sacks, one tackle for loss, four quarterback hits and the aforementioned two forced fumbles.
Those aren’t the type of numbers the opposing quarterback is likely to forget.
“He’s a stud – he’s such a stud,” Brees said. “He’s a guy you’ve got to have a plan for at all times – where is he, how do you protect him, how are you taking care of him and all that stuff. You know the leadership he brings, you know the productivity he brings, and he’s just a game changer. You’ve just got to be ready for him.”
The ideal scenario is a return to typical form, but it remains to be seen how effective Ware can be when he does return. His worst outing against the Saints came in last season’s overtime loss, when he was hampered by injuries.
Ware knows he has some catching up to do once he does return. He recorded all four of his sacks this season in just two of his six appearances, and problems with stingers bothered him in those outings.
The result is that he’s tied for just 37th in the league in sacks – a good bit off the league pace of 11.5 set by Indianapolis’ Robert Mathis, and the NFC lead of 10 by St. Louis’ Robert Quinn.
“You know I’m behind, so I guess I’ve got to hop on the saddle and start riding a little bit,” Ware said.
Of course, now that Ware has rounded into shape, it’s starting defensive tackles Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden on the injury report. Hatcher has missed both practices this week with stinger issues of his own, while Hayden is battling rib issues.
With the issues they’ve already overcome, though, Ware said he’s got confidence in whoever lines up on what has now become a famous group of non-famous people (Marinelli’s Misfits).
“You know what? It’s the no-name defensive line,” Ware said with a smile. “We’ve got guys coming in that can play, and we have confidence in those guys to play. Hatcher and Nick will get out there and play and do the best that they can.”
IRVING, Texas — Since May 16, the Dallas Cowboys have signed, traded, acquired, put on injured reserve or released 28 defensive linemen. They saw another, Josh Brent, retire on July 18.
Everett Dawkins and Hall Davis are the latest additions. Dawkins was signed off the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad to the active roster, and Davis filled the final practice-squad vacancy.
There has been an incredible amount of movement on the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line. If you remember the Travis Chappelear era consider yourself fortunate.
Check out these transactions by date involving only the defensive line:
May 16 – Signed Anthony Hargrove
June 5 – Waived/injured Robert Callaway
June 11 – Signed Jeris Pendleton
June 20 – Cut Hargrove
June 25 – Signed Jerome Long
July 18 – Josh Brent retired
July 26 – Signed George Selvie and Landon Cohen
July 31 – Cut Ike Igbinosun, signed Toby Jackson
Aug. 1 – Waived/injured Cameron Sheffield
Aug. 6 – Waived Monte Taylor, signed Jabari Fletcher
Aug. 12 – Signed Travis Chappelear
Aug. 13 – Claimed Thaddeus Gibson
Aug. 19 – Waived Chappelear, Jackson
Aug. 21 – Signed Jason Vega
Aug. 26 – Cut Pendleton
Aug. 31 – Cut Fletcher, Gibson, Long, Vega; acquired Edgar Jones from Kansas City
Sept. 1 – Traded Sean Lissemore to San Diego
Sept. 2 – Signed Vega to practice squad
Sept. 3 – Acquired Caesar Rayford from Indianapolis
Sept. 5 – Chappelear waived off injured reserve
Sept. 7 – Placed Ben Bass on injured reserve; re-signed Long
Sept. 17 – Cut Cohen, signed David Carter
Sept. 24 – Cut Long, signed Drake Nevis
Sept. 25 – Placed Anthony Spencer on injured reserve
Oct. 15 – Cut Carter, Signed Jarius Wynn
Oct. 16 – Released Ratliff off reserve/PUP
Oct. 18 – Signed Vega off practice squad; placed Jones on IR to return list
Oct. 21 – Signed Marvin Austin
Oct. 29 – Released Vega; signed Everette Brown
Oct. 31 – Signed Vega to practice squad
Nov. 5 – Cut Austin
ARLINGTON, Texas – Worked out on Monday, signed on Tuesday, practiced on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday … so naturally Everette Brown had a big sack and forced fumble in the final seconds of Sunday’s win over the Vikings.
Now, Brown didn’t get a turnover, but the play was still a big play to help prevent Minnesota from driving deep in Dallas territory.
Brown, who said his focus was starting up a new Smoothie shop with his fiancée in Charlotte before the Cowboys called him last week, is the latest of several defensive linemen who have rolled through the organization this year.
In fact, if you’re scoring at home, Brown is the 16th defensive linemen to play a snap for the Dallas Cowboys this season. That doesn’t include Jay Ratliff, Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass and Sean Lissemore, who once figured into the rotational plans for this D-line.
“Every week, it’s a new guy,” said Jason Hatcher, who has been the most consistent and the best lineman so far this year. “But I think they’re coming in and doing a great job of contributing right away. I give them credit and Rod (Marinelli) for getting them ready. They were big again today.”
One of the biggest plays of the game occurred from a trio of defensive linemen who might not have been in the NFL at all had it not been for the Cowboys giving them a shot.
Nick Hayden scored his first career touchdown by falling on a loose fumble in the end zone. George Selvie stripped the ball right before Jarius Wynn blasted Christian Ponder.
“I got him pretty good … it felt good, too,” Wynn said. “But it’s nice to come in here and help this team any way I can. I feel more comfortable now.”
Speaking of comfortable, Hayden looked right at home in the end zone after his first touchdown since his high school days.
Afterward, Hayden displayed what appeared to be a rather rehearsed dance.
“It was me rocking out,” Hayden said. “I just played the air-guitar and then smashed it at the end. It’s something we had talked about before for a sack dance. But I just used it today with my touchdown. I’ve got some other (dances), too, if I ever need them.”
While Hayden is far from the new guy anymore, he was also one of the players back in training camp just trying to revive his career.
“This group … we’re relentless,” Hayden said. “We’ve got new guys coming in each week, but they’ve been stepping up for us. It’s been great. We just try to learn from Coach Marinelli. He’s done a great job with us. We just keep playing for him.”
|George Selvie end zone strip and Nick Hayden recovery for TD replay||Locker room comments from Marinelli’s Misfits and Sean Lee|
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IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have once again added another defensive lineman. This time, he’s a little more well-known than some of the others.
The Cowboys have added beefy Marvin Austin, a former second-round pick of the Giants in 2011. Austin missed all of his rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle and played in just eight games last year for the Giants, who cut him after the last preseason game. Austin was then picked up by the Dolphins but cut two weeks ago.
The Cowboys had an open spot on the roster having putting defensive end Edgar Jones (groin) on injured reserve.
Austin is a former college teammate of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter, who was also taken in the second round of the 2011 draft.
Today, coach Jason Garrett commented on Austin’s versatility as a tackle, stating, “he can play both defensive tackle spots.”
“What we know about him is a lot of really positive things,” Garrett said. “There are some positive physical traits and some positive character personality traits you want to tap into it. You want to give a guy a blank slate when he comes in and hopefully the environment you create for him brings out the best in him.”
Austin is yet another player high-profile college player whom the Cowboys have added to bolster the defensive line depth, along with George Selvie and Drake Nevis, a former LSU All-American and third-round pick. Selvie was a college standout at South Florida but taken in the seventh round.
The Cowboys have also signed veteran Jarius Wynn last week and played him in the game against Philadelphia. Jason Vega was signed last week to make his Cowboys debut with DeMarcus Ware ailing.
Overall, 14 different defensive linemen have suited up for the Dallas Cowboys in the first seven games.
The Dallas Cowboys are hoping Marvin Austin is ready to become the 15th this weekend in Detroit.