57) Can Cowboys Find Replacement For Victor Butler?

As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.

Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full seasons removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding them as they prepare for the 2013 season.

As we count down the days to camp, the writers of DallasCowboys.com will take a different question each day that is hovering over this team.

With 57 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question centers on defensive end depth.

57) Can Cowboys Find Replacement For Victor Butler?

When free agency started back in March, there weren't many unrestricted free agents on last year's Cowboys roster who figured to return.

Victor Butler was one of them and it never seemed like the Cowboys were seriously interested in bringing him back, especially after Anthony Spencer was given the franchise tender for the second straight year. Butler found a home with the Saints, who are now coached by Rob Ryan, who always seemed to have a good role for Butler either in the base or nickel defense.

Butler seems to be a better fit in the 3-4 scheme, but there, he had trouble against the run on a consistent basis. His best value for the Cowboys came on passing downs in the nickel and dime packages.

Whether it's 4-3 or 3-4, the Cowboys still need that spot filled. Spencer and DeMarcus Ware should be one of the best defensive end duos in the NFL but they showed last year that injuries can take their toll. Ware was hobbled by elbow, neck and shoulder injuries all year, forcing Butler to play quite a bit down the stretch.

So who will be this year's Butler? Who will be the "swing" pass-rusher who can play both sides.

The Cowboys signed Anthony Hargrove last week. He has experience in the 4-3 scheme with the Saints but didn't play all of last year because of the "Bounty Gate" situation in New Orleans.

Another player in the mix is Kyle Wilber, who played outside linebacker last year in the 3-4 and initially stayed there in the 4-3 switch. But he's now at defensive end again and said he added 12 pounds of muscle to his frame and hopes to play close to 260 pounds this year.

Ware and Spencer will be asked to carry the load, but no matter the star power at any position, depth is always needed. Hargrove and Wilber should get the first shot.

 Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 57: 

    • The Cowboys have defeated the New York Giants 57 times in franchise history, holding a 57-42-3 advantage over their NFC East rivals. The Cowboys and Giants square off for the second straight year on opening night, this time At Cowboys Stadium on Sept. 8.
    • The Cowboys have had 17 players wear the No. 57 jersey. The longest-tenured players to wear this jersey were center Malcolm Walker (1966-69), linebacker Kevin Burnett (2005-08) and Victor Butler (2009-12), who all wore it for four seasons. [embedded_ad]
  • Currently, sixth-round pick DeVonte Holloman, a linebacker from South Carolina is wearing No. 57. If he makes the squad, he will become the 18th player to don the number, assuming he doesn't change before the start of the year.
  • Running back Tyson Thompson holds the Cowboys record for most kickoff returns in a season with 57 returns, set in 2005, which is also a rookie record.
  • The 1989 draft will be remembered more for Troy Aikman going No. 1 overall, but his center Mark Stepnoski was drafted with the 57th overall pick. In Jerry Jones' first draft, the Cowboys added Aikman, Daryl Johnston, Stepnoski and Tony Tolbert in the first four rounds.  
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