The biggest free agency acquisition for the Dallas Cowboys brought with it immediate attention, as Henry Melton became the only defensive lineman on the team that had already "made a name for himself" with his previous Pro Bowl season. But ten months removed from his ACL injury, Melton has not been involved in team drills during OTAs and mini-camp. If Rod Marinelli's Rushmen are going to improve the Cowboys '14 defense, then Henry Melton will have to play a large role. Questions still abound, but Melton discussed his expected timeline for the upcoming season during a radio show with Cowlishaw and Mosley.
"I will be doing the conditioning test but it's pretty much up to them if they want to have me full go. But I don't think I'll be full go, but I'll definitely be in the mix."
It wouldn't surprise me if the Cowboys take it slow when incorporating Melton into team drills in training camp and preseason. With the increased attention to injury prevention and the "better safe than sorry" approach the team has been using this offseason with injured and rehabbing players (notably Tony Romo), it only makes sense. Considering the large number of young, new, and developing players on the roster, we will likely see Melton used sparingly leading up to preseason games.
However, he's "100 percent confident" he'll be "definitely ready" for the season opener, but it remains to be seen how quickly the Cowboys will increase Melton's preseason and regular season workload. While I believe Melton will come back from his injury and create havoc as the three-technique, it will take some time. So as fans, we'd better curb our expectations as much for Melton as we are for developing, young vets like Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain and George Selvie, or high-profile rookies like DeMarcus Lawrence. Speaking of which:
"You know what, he [D Law] looks really good. I never practiced with [DeMarcus] Ware or anything, but I definitely saw him play. But he [D Law] has some comparisons. He has the size and he definitely has the athleticism. He just needs to work on his techniques and getting his rookie legs under him."
While some guys will be learning to play in Marinelli's schemes and developing their talents, technique, and balance, Melton will primarily be shaking off the rust and becoming more comfortable trusting his repaired knee. It will be interesting to see the variations, not to mention the players, making up the Rushmen rotations. The competitions during training camp will be exciting and the versatility of many of the players will make matters even more interesting. However, I suspect the distribution of snaps at the start of the season will be quite even, and fun to watch...apparently, so does Henry Melton:
"Yeah there's going to be a big mix. I feel like we are - there's a lot of young guys. We don't have very many veterans, but there's going to be a big mix, so it's definitely going to be fun to watch."
This is one great benefit of having so many hungry and young players along the defensive line. While the team no longer has two star players to lean on, Marinelli will have the opportunity to gauge the progress of a lot of Rushmen over the course of the year and regulate their snap counts accordingly; or even ride the hot hand during particular matchups where a larger Crawford is bullying a slender RT or Selvie is blowing past a bigger but slower RT. While Bill Callahan and Frank Pollack will decide during training camp who wins the starting job at left guard, Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett will be orchestrating rotations throughout the season. There may be some growing pains to start, but the players and rotations will have every opportunity to prove themselves and earn more playing time. There remain a lot of questions about the success of the Cowboys '14 Rushmen and Melton's rehab timeline, but it seems we both are excited about the potential of the mix that will be fun to watch.