With training camp right around the corner, DallasCowboys.com is taking a look at the outlook of each position group for the home team in a seven-part series, continuing Friday with the defensive line position.
Big Issue: There are some question marks here on the defensive line at both end and nose tackle and how the playing time will shake out. But possibly the biggest issue from this group will be the emergence of
Scouting Department: In my view, the defensive line has the least amount of questions going into to camp, unlike offensive line or wide receiver. I know there are those of you that don’t believe what I just said, but it’s true. If Jason Hatcher starts at right defensive end with
Rookie Watch: All eyes will likely be fixed on rookie Tyrone Crawford, a third-round pick from Boise State. Crawford (6-4, 282) didn’t do much this summer because of a quad injury he sustained early in the OTA practices. The club has Crawford pegged as a high-motor, ultra-intense defensive player who should be able to contribute in spot duty this year. His progress and development might be a big factor in the Cowboys’ decisions to keep a couple of veterans at defensive end in Spears and Coleman.
Don't Forget About … This isn’t a spot where people are forgetting anyone. Even the likes of Calloway and Brent are being discussed as possible backups. So maybe a guy like
Jay Ratliff – Has been slowed somewhat by injuries lately, including a foot issue that kept him out all summer. But Ratliff has made the Pro Bowl four straight years and vows to be ready for the start of camp.
Jason Hatcher – Maybe this is the year Hatcher finally breaks out. He didn’t seem to be a great fit in previous schemes but had his most productive season last year, despite injuries.
Kenyon Coleman – There has been speculation Coleman might not be around this year, but the Cowboys aren’t exactly hurting for cap space at the moment. If they decide a veteran player is out there, then Coleman could be expensed. But it means younger players at DE must fill the role.
Marcus Spears – Ditto from Coleman. Spears doesn’t cost as much as Coleman on the cap, but some might argue he’s not as productive. With both players likely here for the start of camp, there’s no telling how this might shake out.
Josh Brent – Entering his third year, time is running out for him to prove himself. Brent was a productive rookie out of nowhere in 2010 then suffered some injuries last year. But he’ll have a position fight with Robert Calloway to back up Ratliff.
Sean Lissemore – Possibly the wild card to this position. If he emerges like the Cowboys are hoping, it would give the team added flexibility because he can play two spots. His career so far is reminiscent of Ratliff, which could be a great indication of things to come.
Clifton Geathers – Like Lissemore, Geathers is on the upswing. The Cowboys kept him last year even though they had enough depth at DE. With tremendous size, look for him to get added playing time this year.
Robert Calloway – He needs to beat out Brent for the backup NT job. He’s got strength and had a full year on the practice squad last year.
Tyrone Crawford – Third-round pick from Boise State who missed most of the summer with a quad injury. He won’t be asked to start but his fast-motor needs to be cranked to the fullest when his number is called.
Baraka Atkins – Veteran journeyman who hasn’t played much football in the last three years. He’s got pass-rush ability but is fighting an uphill battle in the numbers game.