Looking at Rod Marinelli’s history with the Cowboys that is the preferred number of defensive linemen that he likes to have in his rotation for game day. That also happens to be the number of defensive linemen that remain on the roster after today’s cuts, although one of those eight, rookie Charles Tapper, has not played a snap in a while and there has been no indication that he will be ready for the Giants in just eight short days.
That is what makes the cuts of Ryan Russell, Lawrence Okoye, and Michael McAdoo all the more surprising, and perhaps it indicates that the Cowboys know they still have work to do along the defensive line following today’s cuts. Coming out of OTA’s and heading into training camp there was plenty of buzz around Russell, with many seeming to think that he had a strong shot at a starting job while DeMarcus Lawrence is suspended. There were plenty of stories written about the constant verbal abuse Russell took at the hands of Marinelli during his rookie season, and how all of that was starting to pay off as the light looked to be coming on for the young lineman. Then the games started. Russell was inconsistent, looking slow and stiff, and often times while only matched up against second- and third-stringers such as in the first preseason game against the Rams where he played almost the entire game and failed to make an impression.
Michael McAdoo and Lawrence Okoye were never really expected to make the roster although both have flashed during the preseason and one could easily argue that both have looked more impressive than Russell. That is especially the case with the versatile Okoye who looked strong and explosive in the preseason finale against the Texans, although it still wasn’t enough to earn him a roster spot. Of course Tapper, the fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma, hasn’t shown anything in the preseason but the team was not willing to part with his potential after investing a high pick on him this past April.
So where does that leave us going into next Sunday?
I’m projecting that the starting defensive line will be Jack Crawford at left defensive end, Terrell McClain at the 1-technique defensive tackle, Tyrone Crawford at the 3-technique, and Benson Mayowa at right defensive end.
Of course the key to a Marinelli defensive line is having a strong rotation, so behind the starting four are David Irving, Cedric Thornton, Maliek Collins and Charles Tapper. As mentioned previously, it’s very unlikely that Tapper plays against the Giants, and considering his mysterious back injury there doesn’t seem to be any certainty as to when he will return. That leaves two pure defensive tackles in Thornton and Collins, along with a tweener end/tackle in David Irving who has a similar style of play as the two Crawford’s. The defensive tackle rotation looks strong, but the only pure end currently on the roster is Benson Mayowa and while Jack Crawford and David Irving are capable of playing outside, they are more effective inside, especially when it comes to rushing the passer.
Once DeMarcus Lawrence returns the rotation seems clear, but in the meantime what will the Cowboys do over the first four games with no pure edge rushers aside from Mayowa and his two career sacks?
Considering that Marinelli prefers to have eight linemen in his rotation, will the Cowboys roll the dice early on with just seven with the hope that Tapper only misses a game or two and is ready to contribute right away?
Or will they look to add one of the recent cuts such as Tyrone Holmes or Ryan Davis? Could they be looking at a trade? And who on the current roster would be on the chopping block if someone is added?
Something tells me the Cowboys are far from finished on the defensive line, so let us know what you think about the various scenarios in the comments.