Everyone is worried about the defensive line and for good reason. The team certainly hasn’t made any big moves to bolster this position group, but does that mean they don’t have a solution? Rather than trying to bring in a finished product that will cost an arm and a leg, the team is taking a different approach - coaching.
The Cowboys’ remedy, at present, is to rely on Marinelli, who is entering his 21st year as an NFL assistant coach. He's in his fourth year with the Cowboys and third year as their defensive coordinator.
So it comes downs to good coaching and acquiring the right guys that are going to respond well and develop into players that can contribute to the team.
"I think if you ask anybody around the league ... GMs and head coaches, you want known commodities all over your football team, but a huge part of the NFL in 2016 is developing players," Garrett said. "You have to have great coaches to do that and you have to pick them the right way, the right kind of guys who have some talent to develop. We have some guys on our football team who are among the best in the NFL. In other areas we have to rely on some younger players we are trying to develop. I think most teams, the best teams, are built that same way."
The Cowboys are giving these young pass rushers a shot, but that doesn’t mean they are living and dying by what they have to offer. As Stephen Jones as said on many occasions, the team is in the business of upgrading the roster 365 days of the year.
Choosing to give your young players every opportunity to succeed isn’t the same thing as neglecting the position altogether. If the Cowboys don’t think a particular player is picking things up quickly enough, or the team happens to need said players roster spot, they won’t hesitate to make a transaction.
Waiting to see the players practice with pads on and full contact before making rash decisions is just smart business. It’ll certainly help the FO better evaluate their players, but it won’t prevent the team from needing to make additional transactions.
Of course, should the Cowboys go shopping for a replacement edge rusher, Dwight Freeney’s name seems to be the one everyone is calling for. While waiting it out could cause them to miss out, are the Cowboys even interested in him?
Due to his age, Freeney’s name is probably not on the Cowboys wish list. But with a wildcard like owner and general manager Jerry Jones at the helm, you can never discount to possibility.
While fans are up in arms about the pass rush, the Cowboys front office doesn’t appear too worried.
"We obviously drafted a couple guys here and it'll be great to watch them. Believe it or not, we are fired up about that group of guys and I think they have an unbelievable teacher [Marinelli] and coach and life coach and I know he'll be working them. So it'll be very interesting to watch how those guys do."
We think a lot of times players make their biggest jump after their first year," Jones said. "So a guy like a Russell is a guy who is very intriguing to me, had a great offseason and we're hoping that he'll bring that to camp here and continue to improve.
It’s great to believe in your teammates and there seems to be no shortage of that when it comes to Ryan Russell’s assessment of the Cowboys defensive line situation.
"We have enough pass rush out here to be the best defensive unit in the league and the best defensive line in the league, and I truly believe that," Russell said. "We're very young and we're all very ambitious. No one is looking at us. No one is really worried about us, so we have nothing to lose. The talent is phenomenal.
"We have so much talent that people just haven't seen yet. That's not their fault, they haven't seen us. We're definitely going to shock the world."
If the Cowboys are able to effectively get after the quarterback this season, it’s definitely going to be a shock to many fans.
While Tank is one of the players that will start the season suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, he is at camp and ready to move forward.
"You have to admit to your decisions and mistakes. I felt like that was the right thing to do. My team counts on me as a leader and I didn't prove myself to them. I had to step up and let them know I was sorry."
Clarence Hill Jr. offers up his thoughts on day one of training camp, including a more gloomy outlook for the defensive end position.
Defensive end remains a mess for the Cowboys on paper with DeMarcus Lawrence suspended for four games and Randy Gregory possible out for the season. The Cowboys will trot out the unproven likes of Ryan Russell, David Irving, Charles Tapper, Benson Mayowa, Lawrence Okoye, Mike McAdoo and Zach Wood in practice on hopes of developing a few a capable pass rushers until Lawrence returns. Mayowa and Tapper have the most promise. While situation itself is depressing, the team believes they are better off than they were in 2014 when Jeremy Mincey and George Selvie were the starting ends and the Lawrence had a zero sacks as a rookie.
The Mincey and Selvie production in 2014 will always serve as something Cowboys fans can use to provide hope.
Bryan Broaddus and David Helman take a moment to answer a couple questions, including whether or not the Cowboys will be on the prowl for a potential upgrade at defensive end.
John Bui, Orange, CA: If the Cowboys go through training camp and the pass rushers don't pan out as they'd like, do you think they go and trade for someone who can help? More importantly and realistically, do you think there is any DE of good value that we could trade for and help this team?
Bryan: I have said all along that if they get through the second preseason game and things aren’t working out that they would trade for some help. Just going through the rosters in the league – there is some potential help if teams are willing to part with them. Dallas has players, picks and a claiming spot that can all be a factor in adding players.
David: I think that’s certainly a possibility, but I’d temper my expectations. How often do you see a blockbuster trade at the tail end of training camp? At best, I think you might see the Cowboys give up a mid-round draft pick or a player for a pass rusher with upside – think along the same lines as the trade that landed Christine Michael in Dallas last September. I won’t be surprised if they add help somehow, but I don’t think it’s going to be a jaw-dropping move like some fans are asking for.
They also answer a question about a potential new deal for Travis Frederick.
While contract talks are on the way with the front office and Travis Frederick’s agent, the Cowboys center is only focused on one thing - football.
"I think it’s really important, for anybody in professional sports, to be able to compartmentalize everything," Frederick told me. "You gotta leave family aside, especially when you come out here to training camp and you’re leaving your family back in Dallas or wherever they are, to really focus on football. It’s a reminder that we need to leave all of those things separate, especially when we come out here on the field."
It takes a special type to try to configure what a future contract might look like for a Cowboys player, but that’s exactly what you get when K.D. starts wrapping his mind around it.
Frederick will likely command a new deal similar to that signed by Alex Mack of the Atlanta Falcons. That is, a deal at the top of the totem pole.
Mack signed a five-year, $45 million contract this offseason. Expect Frederick to average the same, but get a seven-year deal so the Cowboys have the flexibility to move around cap hits for the second and third years.
Seven years, $63.6 million with an $8 million signing bonus and the first two years fully guaranteed is the range we believe a new deal should flirt with. There will likely be an injury guarantee for the third-year. The relatively low signing bonus is so Frederick’s 2016 cap hit doesn’t move much from it’s current number of $2,185,918.