Rounding out the defense in the series, we end with the Cowboys' depth chart at defensive tackle. Was Dallas able to improve at tackle this offseason? Well I guess it's just how you look at it, really.
2014: Henry Melton, Tyrone Crawford, Nick Hayden, Terrell McClain, Chris Whaley (IR), Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman
2015: Tyrone Crawford, Nick Hayden, Terrell McClain, Chris Whaley, Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman
3T- Tyrone Crawford
Tyrone Crawford played Henry Melton right out of a job and is the definition of a Rod Marinelli three-tech. He's got great speed, strength and the motor that is required to get up the field and into the quarterback's face. Though the sack numbers certainly left more to be desired, Crawford was likely the product of an entire underachieving defensive line. PFF graded out Crawford at +11.9, which was good enough to land him in the top 15 at the position. Crawford is my pick for breakout player of the year even though many would argue he already broke out. The analysts over at NFL.com agree with me and placed him 15th on their "Making The Leap" series. Daniel Jeremiah even went as far to liken Crawford to a "poor man's Ndamukong Suh". Wow, high praise for such a high character, high intensity guy. With the upgrades to the defensive line, Crawford may just be in line for a Pro Bowl if he continues to progress.
1T- Nick Hayden
Many of you know how long I've been trying to get rid of Hayden, but I believe i have finally turned the corner on him. Look he's not the prototypical one-tech that many 4-3 schemes dictate, however, this is also not the prototypical 4-3 scheme under Marinelli. The defensive coordinator loves the guy and his effort which is a lot to say about him. If you can give relentless effort at the position, things are going to go your way sometimes. PFF wouldn't say much about Hayden, but these player performance go far beyond what PFF is able to do. Hayden has done a nice job taking on his workload and with the same upgrades I mentioned earlier, he should benefit just as much.
1T- Terrell McClain
I sure hope that McClain can give Hayden a run for his money in camp. I've always liked McClain's attitude and nastiness he brings to the position. If you go back and watch both games against the New York Giants, McClain was leveling some people. He was pretty dominant. Unfortunately, we never got to experience much last year because camp injuries had him sidelined. Now that he's back and healthy, it's time to see him take it to the next level. He has the pedigree to become the starter and can even play three-tech, too. His versatility and competitive nature should get him some chances this offseason.
3T- Chris Whaley
This is a guy that people should get somewhat excited about. Sure, he was injured all last year and redshirted 2014, but Whaley was a very good player in his time at Texas. I should know since you're reading the works of BTB's Austinite. Though I'm not a true fan of the Longhorns, I like what i see in Whaley. Like Crawford, he's the exact definition of what the under tackle is supposed to be. He's got a motor that will never quit and he can penetrate in a hurry. Now that he's healthy, Whaley will definitely be in the mix to backup Crawford in 2015.
1T- Ken Bishop
Bishop is another one of Bryan Broaddus' pet cats, and rightfully so. For the same reasons Whaley is defined as the three, Bishop is surely a one. He's a big athlete that can really take up some space down there. He's a solid run defender that can really anchor down and take on some doubles if asked to. He's not true starter but as a rotational player, he could be solid for Dallas. Scouts say he has proven 2-gap ability and has a lot of hustle to him. If there is one thing that will keep you on the team, it's the ability to hustle.
3T- Davon Coleman
What Coleman lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in disruption. He was a bit underrated at Arizona State mainly because he was on the team with other defenders who were drafted. Coleman can really get up the field and move past blockers. He has good strength for the position and quickness but is a bit stiff at times. His snap anticipation and awareness may be the best on the team and he played well enough in some preseason games to remain active in 2014. With another year under his belt, we'll soon see if Coleman can carve himself out a role in this rotation.
My take: The decision is a swing for me. Crawford can certainly do all that Melton did last season and more. The other guys on the roster have some things to prove. The best part in all of this is that so many of the defensive line guys are versatile. Jeremy Mincey and Greg Hardy will certainly get some looks inside which in-turn makes this unit look better. As far as adding talent, they really didn't grab anyone both via free agency or the draft, but at this point I trust that Marinelli knows what he's doing.