Coming out of Grambling State in the 2006 NFL Draft, Jason Hatcher was the third-round selection of the Dallas Cowboys. As a 3-4 defensive end, Hatch spent the early part of his career as a rotational player along the team's defensive line. He saw limited action during his rookie season. Playing in 14 games, he contributed 13 tackles and 2.5 sacks before suffering an injury that cut short his first professional season. Quite frankly, there was little in #97's game to be overly thrilled about. He was just a guy, and an inexperienced one at that.
The next few seasons continued along the same path. Although Hatcher earned more playing time, he remained a down-roster player for the Cowboys. He was a guy that could come in and give the team some solid but not spectacular snaps. From 2007 through 2010, the team could pretty much figure on him to account for somewhere between 30 & 35 tackles and a sack or two along the way. As I said before, Hatcher was just a guy, at least in the eyes of the coaches and fans. It seemed that the rest of the National Football League felt the same way. As a free agent after the 2010 season, he drew little interest and, and as a result, Jason Hatcher re-signed with the Boys.
That was where things started to change. In addition to inking Hatcher to a second deal, the Cowboys made another move that brought out the best in the heretofore unspectacular lineman; they hired Rob Ryan as the defensive coordinator. You see, Rob saw something in the former Grambling State product that no one else had figured out: POTENTIAL. Ryan believed that he could be something in the league and he made sure that Hatcher knew how he felt.
Ryan named Hatcher as one of his starting defensive ends for the 2011 season. In his first year as the starter, Hatch turned in career best numbers for tackles (36) and sacks (4.5). Fueled by the boost to his self confidence, he began to assert himself as a professional. He followed up one good season with an even better one. In 2012, Jason recorded 51 tackles and four sacks in route to his becoming the team's best defensive lineman. Unfortunately, his success was followed by the termination of his mentor, and brought with it some concerns about how he would adapt to being a 4-3 tackle.
As it turned out, the concerns that many of us felt were unfounded. In 2013, Hatch remained the Cowboys' best defensive lineman, or as new DL coach Rod Marinelli prefers to call them "rushmen". Like a duck to water, he dominated while playing the 3-technique in the 4-3 defense. With 41 tackles and 11 sacks, Jason Hatcher was the most consistent and durable piece on the Monte Kiffin/Rod Marinelli-led defense. His efforts earned him the first Pro Bowl bid of his career and escalated Jason Hatcher's value to the point where many of us knew that he was destined to earn more money with another team. Sadly, that team turned out to be the Cowboys oldest rival, the Washington Redskins.
Mr. Hatcher, knowing where you will be playing next season makes it hard to say good luck to you. Still we know you had to make the best move for your future and that of your family. While rivalries may prevent that, we here at Blogging The Boys will graciously say "Thank you for your efforts and for the good memories. It was a pleasure seeing you come into your own as a player."