Off-season Priorities Pt. 3 [The Defensive Line]

The Defensive Line recorded one of the worst sack totals in Cowboys History. Improvements will be needed.

This is the third installment of the weekly fan-post which evaluates the Dallas Cowboys Off-season Priorities. This week I will be focusing on the Defensive Line. If you want to check out any of the previous articles published, the links are below.

Pt 1. Here | Pt 2. Here |

Well as stated above, the Cowboys defensive line recorded one of the lowest sack totals in franchise history. There is no question this at-least had had something to do with the Rob Ryan firing. The Dallas Cowboys have been blessed to have many HOF worthy D-lineman in their history. Bob Lily, Harvey Martin, Randy White, Ed Too Tall Jones, Jim Jeffcoat, and Leon Lett are just a few that come to mind. DeMarcus Ware will soon join that list when he retires and will be remembered as one of the best OLB/DEs of the past decade.

My good friend NY Horn provided me with some PFF defensive line grades which I will use to evaluate the current players available, and which position on the line needs the most attention. The lineman are not numbered in any order.

Name | Position | Sacks | Tackles | Pass Rush Grade | Run Defense Grade |

1. Marcus Spears | DE | 1.0 | 25 | -4.8 | 0.0 |

Summary: Turning 30 in March, Spears is due $2 million in 2013, but has no guaranteed money left on his deal. He played in 15 games in 2012, started six, and recorded 25 tackles .Spears had another disappointing year and while he is decent versus the run, he offers no pass rush. According to the Dallas Morning News, his days as a Cowboy are over.

2. Jason Hatcher | DE | 4.0 | 51 | +10.1 | +17.5 |

Summary: Hatcher had another solid year and started all 16 games. He made great stops against the run & brought constant pressure. He was graded as the 4th best 3-4 DE in the league(per PFF). He will likely start at a 3 tech in Kiffin's scheme & could rotate around the line.

3. Sean Lissemore | DT | 1.0 | 15 | -4.1 | -2.0 |

Summary: Sean Lissemore was injured half the year and did not adapt well to the DT position after injuries to Ratliff & Brent forced him to move inside. He still managed tor record a sack and could be another rotational player for Kiffin in the 4-3.

4. Tyrone Crawford | DE | 0.0 | 16 | -1.8 | +2.5 |

Summary: Tyrone had a nice rookie season and occasionally flashed his potential in games. While he was not officially given a sack, I did see him sack a QB. He played the strong side DE in college and that is where he could fit in Monte's scheme should Spencer leave.

5. Josh Price-Brent | NT | 1.5 | 13 | +1.8 | +4.8 |

Summary: Josh Brent began the season as a starter due to Ratliff's injury and unlike his counterpart Lissy, he shined. Josh could have reached 4 sacks had he not been arrested half way through the season. He showed the ability to split double teams and cause havoc. He graded positive in all his rankings and it is a shame he might not ever play football again. He would have fit the bill perfect as our 1 tech, now we have to find one.

6. Jay Ratliff | NT | 0.0 | 10 | +5.8 | -3.6 |

Summary: While Jay Ratliff could not stay healthy, he certainly pressured the quarterback when he did. His future might be in question due to his recent outbursts & DUI, but Jones hinted he could return. Jay is scheduled to earn 7 mil in 2013. He would likely play the 3 tech since he has not been able to stay healthy facing double teams.

7. Kenyon Coleman | DE | 0.0 | -1 | +6.0 |

Summary: Coleman presence was felt when he was put on IR. He can stop the run as good as anyone and is great at taking up double teams. However, due to change of scheme and age, I think upgrades in the draft will take his spot. He is a better 3-4 DE anyways.

8. Anthony Spencer | OLB/DE | 11.0 | 55 | +7.2 | +18.9 |

Summary: Spencer's season was awesome. He showed all his doubters why he is a perfect OLB. He can diagnose a play & stuff the run, but when needed he came in the clutch. His sacks versus the Bengals, Steelers, Redskins, & Panthers were all in the 4th quarter when the team needed to get the ball back. Unfortunately, he may cost too much for the cowboys but I would not be shocked if Stephen found a way to resign him. He would play opposite DE from Ware.

9. DeMarcus Ware | OLB/DE | 11.5 | 33 | +12.1 | -1.1 |

Summary: You know you have a special player when 11.5 sacks are a downgrade. He provided great pressure when healthy & although he only got 2.5 sacks the last 8 weeks, he was clearly playing with one hand versus the Redskins. Our prayers go out to him to get fully recovered and have a monster year next year playing DE. I have no doubts he will bounce back.

10. Victor Butler | OLB/DE | 3.0 | 21 | +3.3 | +6.1 |

Summary: Victor Butler had a rise in snaps due to injuries along the Defensive line and had his tackles and fumbles increase(2.0). The problem with Butler has never been rushing the QB, but stopping the run. He started versus the Bears and struggled. He may not be back due to change of scheme & his weakness versus the run. Overall, he was a great rotational player.

11. Rob Callaway, Ben Bass, Brian Schaefering | DT | 0.0 | 1 | 0.0 | 0.0 |

Summary: These three did not receive enough playing time to fully evaluate them and recorded 1 tackle between the three. They will most likely will get a shot in TC to show if they can fit in this 4-3 scheme.

After seeing the grades & evaluating their impact on the team, It is clear that the NT/ 1 technique is the biggest need of the off-season. Hatcher, Ratliff, & Lissemore can all play the 3 tech. Tyrone Crawford & Spencer would play strong side. Ware would be the weak side DE with a draft pick or Butler being his backup. There are multiple options in the DRAFT like Short. Richardson, Jonathan Hankins, Ezekiel Ansah, Datone Jones, Margus Hunt, & Sam Montgomery who provide potential sacks & pressures to this line. Free Agency offers guys like DE Henry Melton (Chicago Bears), DT Alan Branch (Seattle Seahawks), DE Arthur Jones (Baltimore Ravens), DE Vance Walker (Atlanta Falcons), & DT Terrance Knighton (Jaguars), who can be signed to improve the line. It all depends on how Stephen & Jerry manage to fix the cap. For all the Free Agent Defensive Lineman available click Here.

Leave your comments on who you think can improve the defensive line & who you want to see wearing the Star. Thanks for reading - Moses

Part 4. Will evaluate the Cowboys Safeties.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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