Cowboys Camp Battles: Defensive Line

Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff are two starters you can book for the defensive line. Who will join them?

The Dallas Cowboys are in Oxnard, and things are right with the world. Training camp is on.

This is the last of our looks at the battles to make the team in training camp. The defensive line has been categorized as one of the strengths of the team, and the fact that only ten players are competing for what will likely be seven roster spots, based on recent history, gives an idea of how the team feels about this group. The foundation is solid, and with the improvements elsewhere defensively, particularly in the secondary, Dallas' defensive line should be more effective this year in bringing pressure up the middle.

A couple of things before I get into looking at each of the camp contenders. There is not going to be a post on special teams, because Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, and J. P. LaDouceur have the three specialist jobs locked up. With the decision to not bid for Mat McBriar to come back (which was a surprise to me, but I have learned to take my mistaken assumptions in stride), there is no suspense here.

And speaking of defensive improvements, I am totally pumped at the news that Matt Johnson has been cleared physically to come off the PUP list and participate in practices. I have very high hopes for him and his ball-hawking skills, and this is excellent to hear.

On to the defensive line - after the jump, of course.

Player Comments Chances

Ben Bass (DE)

The UDFA has been getting some good reviews. Admittedly, he has not been practicing against the veterans, but the team's preference for youth may work in his favor, if he continues his strong play. He could be a sleeper, and may threaten one of the veterans. If not, the team will probably try to get him through waivers and onto the practice squad.

A good chance to break through.

Josh Brent (DT)

He is Jay Ratliff's backup and the relief when Rat needs a breather. He has been an excellent value as a supplemental pick.

His position is secure.

Rob Callaway (DT)

He is an unknown quantity. And as OCC observed, the team is not likely to keep three nose tackles on the roster. He's third.

Probably will be cut.

Kenyon Coleman (DE)

He was signed last year as a bit of a patch job. Not horrible, but the team is looking for improvement. I think Coleman is the most probable cut in this group.

It was nice to know you.

Tyrone Crawford (DE)

Another player who was looking very, very good in the rookie mini-pre-camp. Given that he was the second player taken in the draft, I figure he takes Coleman's place on the roster.

Almost a lock.

Clifton Geathers (DE)

I think he is a player on the rise. He has the size to help out at the nose. A solid backup.

Should be on the team.

Jason Hatcher (DE)

Probably the best DE on the team right now. Last year was the best of his career. I am hoping 2012 is better.

Starter.

Sean Lissemore (DE)

He has been a favorite for many since he joined the team. I personally love to see a seventh round pick succeed. And a lot of people are calling him a rising star. I think he is competing with Geathers for the starting job opposite Hatcher and has the lead at the moment.

Possible starter.

Jay Ratliff (DT)

One of the stalwarts of the team, not just the D line. This year, for the first time in a while, he may have the help he needs to let him return to his dominant form.

Starter.

Marcus Spears (DE)

Spears has always had his detractors. This year, I think he loses his starting job to Lissemore or Geathers. And then he has to prove to the team that he is more valuable than Bass, who obviously would have more seasons ahead of him. I don't think it is certain, but I am expecting that he will not make it this year.

This could be the end for him.

My take is that Callaway, Coleman and Spears will not make the final 53. But that will be decided on the practice field.

It has started. The countdown to the final 53 is underway. For the next few weeks, you can play around with Coty's excellent Roster Builder. Hit the button to play around with it.

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