It's great to have youth.
I miss mine, and I'm only in my mid-thirties. In the real-life world, this is by no means considered old, except for when giving a ride to my 14-year old and his friends and I'm waxing poetic of "real" rap music and realize that I'm talking about CDs and cassettes that came out 20 years ago. Wow, I just typed cassettes.
But thirties in the football world? That's ancient history, homie. Guys my age are normally retiring from the league unless they're quarterbacks. Those approaching it are hanging on by a thread in most scenarios; and that can easily describe their tackling attempts while young 20-somethings zoom right past them into the tranquil sea of open-field greenery.
The Young Cowboys are exciting, watching all these young players assume their places in the heavy rotation of DJ Jason Garrett's Top 40 mixtapes. Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, JJ Wilcox, Tyron Smith, Cole Beasley, Travis Frederick, Bruce Carter... think about it. Four-year guys Dez Bryant and Sean Lee are grizzled vets to these cats. Guys like Ware, Witten and Romo are ancient fogies whom probably have to take Geritol to suit up each week; at least in those guys minds.
But even for some that have been in the league for a while, their time at the top of the Cowboys hierarchy has only recently been achieved. I'm specifically talking about two guys from the old school: Jason Hatcher and Brian Waters.
Now, their paths to this point are different but similar. Waters began his NFL career as a short-lived Cowboys fullback before being released. Kansas City made him into an offensive lineman and he has finally returned to his roots to play for Dallas. The impact he has had on the Cowboys offensive line has been obvious. He was seemingly the final piece that brought this line to respectability, and I have no doubt he has immensely helped the development of Frederick at center. Just take a look at the Cowboys offensive line grades since he joined the starting lineup in Week Four.
Waters has been exponentially better than whatever Mackenzy Bernadeau could ever dream of being, despite the man-crush Bryan Broaddus had on the guy. And this is after spending an entire season away from the game.
Jason Hatcher on the other hand has been ascending to the throne of the Cowboys defensive line steadily. He finally reached there this year as he continues to hold things together while all of his expected contemporaries fall by the wayside. Hatcher just received a +6.5 cumulative grade for the game against the Eagles: 1 sack, 3 QB hits, 5 QB hurries. He is now PFF's leader for all DTs across the league. Not only that, but Hatcher has emerged as the vocal leader that he himself went searching for one a few years back.
It didn't begin that way for the eight year vet. He didn't even start a game until 2010 and didn't start his second until 2011. Now, he's in a system built for him and is one of the top interior pressure guys in the game.
By now, you're probably saying. "Great job, KD, those guys were awesome... but wasn't this article some sort of question?"
Why yes, yes it is.
Last night on Twitter, (Follow me! @KDP10for10), @Daniel_Blair asked me the following:
Yikes. That's a damn good question. After some deliberation, I went with Brian Waters. My main supporting argument was that for all the greatness that Hatcher has displayed, Rod Marinelli has worked some tremendous wonders with no-name talent surrounding Hatcher. If he had to coordinate the defensive line without him, I'd feel at least a little confident that he could get a draft pick up to speed quick enough to put some work in.
However, what I didn't truly consider is Hatcher's leadership. He seems to be the unquestioned leader out there for the line and you don't just give that away. Then I thought, but isn't that kind of what Waters has been thus far, even if not reported as such? Would Frederick be able to be such a leader in just his sophomore campaign? This question isn't as easy as I thought.
So I decided to turn it into a poll and ask BTB. If the Cowboys could only bring back one player for 2014, whom would you rather have, Brian Waters or Jason Hatcher? Answer the poll and hash it out in the comments!