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Did The Dallas Cowboys Improve At Defensive Tackle?

We continue the series to search for where the Cowboys may have improved, what about defensive tackle?

NFL: NFC Divisional-Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

[After an incredible rise from worst to first in 2016 that saw the Cowboys ride the backs of two outstanding rookie campaigns to 13-3 and a changing of the guard, we have to examine the roster. From 1 to 53, we only have one question?

Have the Dallas Cowboys improved?]

Today, we look at the big guys in the middle, what say you about the defensive tackle position?

Last Season:

Terrell McClain - (started 15 games, 40 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two FF, signed a four-year deal with Washington Redskins worth $21M, $10.5M GTD)

Maliek Collins - (drafted 67th overall in 2016, started 14 games, 23 tackles, five sacks, one FF)

Cedric Thornton - (played in 13 games, 22 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one pass defensed, one FF)

Richard Ash - (played in one game, two tackles)

David Irving - (played 15 games, 17 tackles, four sacks, five PD, four FF, played LE mainly)

Jack Crawford (started 10 games, 25 tackles, 3.5 sacks, signed 3-year deal with Falcons worth $8.8M, $3M GTD)

Tyrone Crawford - (started 14 games at DE, 28 tackles, 4.5 sacks)

This Season:

Maliek Collins

Tyrone Crawford (TBD move back to DT?)

Stephen Paea - (13 games played, 12 tackles, 0.5 sacks, signed one-year deal worth $2M, $500K GTD

Cedric Thornton

Richard Ash

Joey Ivie - (drafted in 7th round from Florida, played 10 games, 26 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, one FF)

Jordan Carrell - (drafted in 7th round from Colorado, played 13 games, 46 tackles, six TFL, five sacks, one fumble recovery)

The Cowboys should certainly benefit from having Maliek Collins around for his second year. He already kind of broke out as a rookie but he could be in for a big year in 2017. There is certainly the argument for Maliek Collins being the best defensive lineman they have on the roster. Collins is the perfect complement to what Rod Marinelli wants in his penetrating three-tech tackle.

Tyrone Crawford is best served as a defensive tackle in this scheme. He’s worked all over the line but his most effective position is backing up Collins and coming in on passing downs. Crawford wins with his upper body strength and he can collapse pockets. If the Cowboys ever really want to get the most out of him, they need to move him back inside where he’s shown to be most successful. However, with Crawford, there is always the caveat of health to consider.

Stephen Paea has had success under this defensive coordinator and terminology. Paea’s best seasons were with Marinelli and the Chicago Bears. Though some folks would have loved to re-sign McClain, Paea has played in more games over their careers which parallel each other. Paea has more sacks and production than McClain as well and a move back to a simple scheme should help him step in and make us forget about the “Dancing Bear”.

Cedric Thornton is one of those players that could be on the proverbial “hot seat” in 2017. The Cowboys signed him to be their athletic one-tech last offseason and he received the highest payday for Cowboys free agents in 2016. He was a bit disappointing last year and the hope is that he can build on how he finished the season which was way better than how he started. Thornton is a solid piece for this rotation and he could even excel at it but he must push himself to be better in 2017.

Richard Ash was a stop-gap for a game to help them recoup the loss of McClain for a game. He’s going to have to have a monster preseason to make the team.

Rod Marinelli has never been seen to be more excited than he was when the Cowboys drafted Joey Ivie. Ivie is that try-hard player that Marinelli believes he can mold and turn into a contributor. The reality is that if the Cowboys go long on the defensive line it’s likely to be at end, not tackle. Jordan Carrell is in the same boat as Ivie, they’re both try-hards that will have to outperform a veteran to make the roster.

Conclusion: Though I believe that Paea can make a difference, the Cowboys were a better defense down the stretch because of Terrell McClain. He allowed Maliek Collins to penetrate and McClain was very underrated. Paea hasn’t exactly been the pillar of consistency over the past two seasons, he’ll have to prove it early. Taco Charlton will likely see snaps at tackle in certain packages as well.

The Cowboys also lost a utility man in Jack Crawford who has been a very good find for this team. He’s no stud but the Cowboys will need to find a replacement for that role between the guys they have. Long story short, the team had a pretty solid defensive tackle rotation last year and they seem to be about the same for 2017, no improvement here.

Poll

Did The Dallas Cowboys Improve At Defensive Tackle For 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    Yes
    (1343 votes)
  • 35%
    No
    (745 votes)
2088 votes total Vote Now