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Stand-In D-Line Does Stand-Up Job For Cowboys, Marinelli
PHILADELPHIA – Monikers were thrown all over the postgame locker room – quips like “the No-Name Line” or “Hatcher’s Heroes.”
Brandon Carr preferred to keep it simple about the ragtag group of defensive linemen, six of whom weren’t with the Cowboys when training camp started, that harassed the Eagles into a mere 278-yard performance on Sunday.
“Those are our rushmen – I don’t know,” Carr said. “The thing on the door, the title, says rushmen. So whoever they throw into that room, that’s going to be our rushmen. Once they step foot into Valley Ranch, they’re a part of us. We’re going to ride for each other.”
It’s pretty staggering If you follow the timeline that led the Cowboys to this rotation. It was already a fantastic story when George Selvie stepped into the hole left by Anthony Spencer and excelled. But in the time since, injuries knocked three of 2013’s projected defensive line starters off the field – and that doesn’t include the loss of valuable backups like Tyrone Crawford and Edgar Jones.
It hasn’t mattered much to this point. Six of the so-called no-namers saw playing time against Philadelphia, and five of them recorded tackles. Another two, Selvie and Jarius Wynn, combined for two sacks.
“It’s what football is about. At the end of the day, it’s still a blue collar game,” said defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. “You want to go out there and work, fight, compete and have opportunities.”
Surrounded by all those unfamiliar faces, Jason Hatcher is putting up a career year as the line’s lone projected starter. Hatcher built on his career high sack total in the second quarter when he dropped Nick Foles for a six-yard loss.
Faced with the prospect of playing alongside so many new faces, Hatcher said he’s done what he can to build some chemistry.
“I took them out on Thursday, a lot of guys have just got here, and I just talked to them – getting to know each other as men, off the field,” Hatcher said. “It carried on to this game, man. We just played our hearts out for each other, and I’m proud of each and every one of them tonight.”
Much of the credit for the surprising surge will fall on Marinelli and understandably so. Many thought the Cowboys were asking for trouble when the Cowboys failed to draft a defensive lineman for Marinelli to groom. The point was emphasized when the injuries began.
Instead, Marinelli is coaxing production out of castoffs like Selvie, Wynn, Nick Hayden, Drake Nevis, Jason Vega and Caesar Rayford. Asked about that success, Marinelli said it’s all about teaching.
“This game is still built on fundamentals – being sound and solid,” Marinelli said. “They reflect us as coaches, so you keep on each other. They reflect our teaching.”
If his linemen reflect him, it makes sense why this defensive front is playing at such a high level. Marinelli wasn’t quick to buy the hype about the performance, calling it “good, solid work.” It’s doubtful he’ll go too easy on his batch of unsung contributors.
“He’s good, always pushing us to be better,” Nevis said. “If you had a great game, he wants more. He’s going to get the best out of us.”
Like most teachers you’ve ever encountered, Marinelli knows there’s still plenty left to learn.
“I just like guys who like to play football, and want to work to be special. That’s what I like,” he said.