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Defensive Signings Maximize Flexibility

The immediate response to Jason Ferguson's signing last week was that Dallas was preparing a move to a 3-4 defensive front, the scheme coach Bill Parcells has utilized at all his previous coaching jobs.

But a second look shows that Ferguson in no way compels the Cowboys to run that scheme. In fact, his greatest contribution may come in the slant-tackle, wide-end 4-3 the Cowboys already run. If the Cowboys remain in this base front, the man who stands to benefit the most is DT LaRoi Glover. When he was in New Orleans in 2000 and 2001, Glover teamed with 6'3", 310 lb. nose tackle Normand Hand. Though Hand never had more than 3.5 sacks in either season, his consistent push commanded the attention of centers and kept them from double-teaming Glover. Glover responded with 25 sacks those two seasons, including an amazing 17 in 2000.

Though Glover has been the active, physical player the Cowboys hoped for, he has not played with a nose tackle in Dallas who commands double teams. As a result, opponents have been able to slide their blocking to Glover's and end Greg Ellis' side.

Dallas has not completed the line renovation; the Cowboys are still in serious need of a pass rusher, either a traditional 4-3 end like Wisconsin's Erasmus James, or a hybrid DE/OLB like Maryland's Shawne Merriman or Oklahoma's Dan Cody, who could play with his hand down in a four man line, or stand up in a 3-4.

In either case, Ferguson's signing gets Dallas a lot closer to having a consistent pass rush for the first time since 1996.