[After that disastrous 2015 season, that saw the Cowboys go 4-12 thanks to the injury bug, we are going to examine the entire roster from top to bottom and ask:
Have the Dallas Cowboys improved?
That may seem like a loaded question but in terms of looking inside and out and taking every variable into the equation that question can be answered. Do you believe that the Cowboys improved from one year to the next?]
At this juncture, we shift focus to a position that may be the only one besides running back that has seen some significant attention. Let's get into the defensive tackles.
3T - Tyrone Crawford (registered five sacks with torn rotator cuff)
1T - Nick Hayden (started 15 games, 48 tackles, current free agent)
DT - Terrell McClain (appeared in two games, placed on IR Sept. 22)
DT - Davon Coleman (appeared in 3 games, released Sept. 28) DT - Ken Bishop (appeared in 2 games, released on Oct. 5th.)
3T - Tyrone Crawford
1T - Cedric Thornton (signed in free agency, 33 tackles, 1 sack with Eagles lasts season)
DT - Terrell McClain
DT - Maliek Collins (drafted in third round of 2016 draft out of Nebraska)
DT - Rodney Coe (UDFA out of Akron)
It's pretty clear that the Cowboys wanted to get more athletic at the defensive tackle position and they hope that they've done the job with adding more youth to the mix. The Cowboys also have a plethora of guys that are versatile defensive ends that they like to move inside. Both Jack Crawford and David Irving come to mind for two guys that can help inside as well.
Coe isn't just any UDFA as he has already caught the eye of Rod Marinelli and Stephen Jones. He had been a guy that was discussed in the BTB Podcast as a tackle that can get tremendous push up the middle. He's got some positive traits and the coaches are excited about what he could become.
Collins was drafted in the third round and was hoping to come right in and help the team as a backup to Crawford. Collins suffered a foot injury but should be recovered halfway through training camp. He'll have to hit the ground running to make up for the time lost and show something in preseason.
Terrell McClain is another case of what could have been? He's shown flashes of dominance in games against the New York Giants but can't seem to stay healthy. If he has any luck fighting off the injury bug this year, he'll be a solid addition to the rotation behind Thornton. McClain is a very athletic tackle that has a lot to offer to the team but he's got to find a way to make it to gamedays.
Thornton is the most underrated acquisition of the offseason as he gives them something they haven't had next to Crawford and could be a godsend for Tyrone's development into the 3-tech under tackle Marinelli needs to make this defense work. Nick Hayden gave the Cowboys' his all but sometimes you have to have the talent to play the position and the "Golden Cock" was not as talented a player as Thornton. Our BTB podcasters have called him the best defensive holder in the league. He was a solid player in Philadelphia and can be exactly what they need next to Crawford.
Tyrone is going to be what makes or breaks this defense moving forward because he's an integral piece in the machine that Marinelli is trying to crank up. If he's getting to the opposing quarterback and sending blockers into the laps of the passer, it may not matter who is playing defensive end for the team. Tyrone Crawford had five sacks with a torn rotator cuff at a time where he couldn't even lift 225 pounds. The side of optimism would say that he's likely to breakout this season. The Cowboys certainly have high hopes for his potential.
So, did the Cowboys improve at defensive tackle?
Without question they did if you look at the youth and athleticism that they have brought in and they also used a third-round pick on a player that Jerry Jones has called a "cornerstone player". If Dallas is going to have any improvement as a pass rushing unit, it'll likely be the defensive tackles that provide that boost.