FanShot

Why the Cowboys Must Draft Margus Hunt for the "I-35 Package"

If any of you have followed the Chicago Bears or New York Giants defenses in recent seasons you've probably heard of something called the 'NASCAR' or 'Dan Ryan' packages. Both refer to efforts by the respective 4-3 defenses to put their most effective pass rushers on the field together on third downs and sacrifice some bulk for speed. In the Giants case, the NASCAR package at its height during their 2011-2012 Super Bowl run featured Jason Pierre Paul at strongside end, former Cowboys 3-4DE Chris Canty at NT, and defensive end Justin Tuck at the other DT spot flanked by weakside rusher Osi Umenoyiora. Note that the Giants pass rush was very successful when Canty was healthy despite any concerns about his shift from a 3-4 system in Dallas to a 4-3 one in New York (I've confirmed this with a Giants fan who's eyeballed far more non-Cowboy Giants games than I have bothered to watch). Also note that when Canty went down (along with injuries that Justin Tuck suffered that he blamed on getting tripped by ex-Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams) -- the NASCAR package sputtered. The Chicago Bears 'Dan Ryan' package, named for one of the biggest expressways in the Windy City (and the one that goes through the rough South Side, no less), is similar to the Giants scheme. The difference though is that the Bears use an undersized but quick DT in Henry Melton (seriously, as a Texas fan I recall Melton unsuccessfully trying to hurdle a defensive back into the end zone while playing fullback rather than running him over -- Melton was at least athletic enough in college at 6"3 265 to play fullback) in their set. And Melton, at least at his peak in 2011 (probably weighing closer to 280 which Crawford played at a heavier weight last season), finished the that year with over eight sacks. If Hatcher or Crawford (who's similar in size to Melton) hit that number we'd all say that we were successfully using them in Monte Kiffin's new 4-3 in Dallas. Of course, Melton got a lot of those sacks because offenses were expecting the Dan Ryan with the 6"6 290 pound Julius Peppers lined up at the strongside DT slot next to Melton. In Kiffin's D with Ezekiel Ansah setting the strong side edge like the Bears big DE Corey Wooten Margus Hunt would perform the Peppers role springing Crawford or Lissemore to the quarterback. Finally Demarcus Ware would perform the Osi/Shea McClellin role of weakside pass rusher (notwithstanding McCllelin's injury issues, he is a prototypical 3-4 outside backer playing will side rush end on passing downs but may end up like our every own Alex Albright or Kyle Wilber being moved to SAM linebacker next season if the Bears find another pass rusher like ex-Cowboy Aston Whiteside). So...what do you think Cowboy Nation? Have I made the case for grabbing the Big albeit inexperienced Estonian in as high as possible in April?

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