I've made myself be read, as I like to see my opinion expressed in bits in a computer display, I want a 3-4 DE in this Draft due to the reasoning that I see as clear as the water that comes from an Acqua di Cristallo Tributo a Modigliani bottle (trivia tidbit, google this), so which is exactly the basis of my opinion? That's the purpose of this post, the basis of my opinion:
3-4 DEs aren't supposed to be invisible in the passing game.
Very informative. So, in a nutshell, have the Cowboys shown that they can do it? Play the run? Yes. The pass?
That's why they use as many 4 man fronts as they do... Pretty much more than 50% of the snaps are true 4 man fronts, Ware with one hand on the ground as a 4 man front DE. And many of his sacks come from this position, but don't go too far (I can see you, glory days 4-3 fan), a lot of his sacks also come from the 3-4 and how he takes advantage of a TE or RB that's asked to take him on one-on-one (there are also sacks where no one picked him up).
After 5 years, it's still an incomplete package, but how incomplete? Can we make a case with numbers? Sure, let's make a case of total sacks by Defensive Line players in any scheme (3-4, 42, 46, 33):
2005: 17.5 sacks. Greg Ellis played End. Ferguson and Glover took turns in the nose. Marcus Spears, Kenyon Coleman and Chris Canty were the other Ends. Almost all of the sacks came in 4 man fronts (Ellis, Glover and Canty).
2006: 9.5 sacks. Last year of the Parcells 3-4. Ratliff, Canty and Hatcher were the DTs in 4 man fronts.
2007: 10.5 sacks. Spears "we were like dancing elephants under Parcells" broke his career high in sacks (he has always been a 3-4 DE, hasn't ever played DT in a 4 man front) with 2. Bowen, Canty and Hatcher did most of the damage in 4 man fronts.
2008: 12.5 sacks. 7.5 sacks belonged to Ratliff. Can you call the rest damage?
2009: 14 sacks. Spears broke his career best with 2.5! Ratliff had 6. Olshansky had 1.5. That's the pass rush of the 3 man front.
2010: 6 sacks. 3.5 by Ratliff. Big fat zeros for Spears and Olshansky. Hatcher's 1 sack came in the 3-4, Bowen was only a factor in 4 man fronts (1.5 sack).
When you look at teams like the Packers (18 sacks), Patriots (16.5), Cardinals (13), Chiefs (13), 49ers (11.5), Dolphins (10.5), Ravens (9.5), Steelers (8.5) and Jets (8.5) you kind of wonder what they do in order to get more pressure in their 3 man fronts, which they use more than the Cowboys. But the answer is simple, they have at least 2 players that don't disappear when the opposing team decides to throw the ball in 1st down.
3-4 ILBs aren't supposed to be invisible in the passing game.
Well, to be fair, the Cowboys ILBs weren't really invisible in the passing game, even though you could say that the QB didn't see them when they threw the 4 Interceptions that went their way, they were average to decent in coverage and that's something. But they were a big fat zero when they blitzed, 0 sacks.
0 sacks? By my count, there isn't a single 3-4 team in the whole NFL that can say the same. For example, a Defense that struggled with it's DLine pass rush (Denver) had 13.5 sacks from it's ILBs.
The Mike LB is expected to blitz close to 20% of the snaps, the Jack LB in around 10%. Again, the Cowboys have a big fat 0 from all those snaps. Do you want to blame the ILBs or the DLine in front of them? They can't do much when they have a 300 pounder, or bigger, in front and waiting for them.
I really don't know if the ILBs will appear with another DLineman that can rush the passer, but I do know that teams with more than one DLineman that can has ILBs with sacks.
I would look for many ways to resurrect the ILBs, they died and stank up the place in 2010.
Better coaching isn't the elder wand, it isn't a regular wand, either.
There's very little that a Coach can do with limited talent and that's what the Cowboys have along the DLine, Spears and Olshansky are 2-down players that have to walk out in pass rushing situations, Bowen can do something in 4 man fronts (but it isn't much) and Hatcher looks like a decent backup (he has shown that he can play in the 3-4 and 4 man fronts). And they all come from a really poor season.
That's what the Cowboys have around Ratliff.
Better coaching could find a way to improve the level of play of Spencer and the ILBs in the pass rush, because they have shown that they can rush the passer, and that's the thing, you can't improve on something that you can't do due to whatever reason.
The Cowboys need to improve with new blood, if that blood comes in the Draft, you won't find better pass rushers that can also play the run than Nick Fairley, Da'Quan Bowers, Adrian Clayborn and Cameron Jordan.
I want it the Packers way.
Look at the Packers Defense, as a matter of fact, look at this play:
3 rushers (THREE), one sack. (sorry, couldn't get a youtube link to be reproduced in here)
I really like their way of thinking, I've read several times writers saying that having Ware and Ratliff at End in the same side would do wonders for our pass rush... Well, the pass rush wouldn't get there, because if you have the 2 players that can rush on the same side the QB will run away from them as soon as he receives the snap.
Meanwhile, the Packers have a really good situation going on, they have Cullen Jenkins (7 sacks) in front of the LT, B.J. Raji (6.5) can rush from the middle and force the QB outside and Clay Matthews usually roams the outside shoulder of the RT.
That's a well balanced Defense that can rush the passer with 3 guys.