Can Defense Really Do Without Coleman?

If the Cowboys are going to make a big splash in free agency, most people agree they have to continue to create cap room. They can do that by restructuring contracts and, of course, releasing some players.

One guy whose value has to be considered is defensive end Kenyon Coleman. Set to turn 33 next month, Coleman is not someone whose 2011 performance stood out to the naked eye, necessarily, and the team could save $1.9 million by releasing him. Along with Terence Newman, he's one of the veterans most often speculated to be a goner.

However, cutting Coleman to save cap space might not be the most prudent move.

We're going back to the well and finding that Coleman was actually one of the league's best run-stopping 3-4 defensive ends last year.

In the website's position ranking, he came in third, behind only Tyson Jackson of Kansas City and J.J. Watt of Houston. Of the 208 running plays he was on the field for, the website credited him as part of making the stop 10.1 percent of the time, marking him down for 25 tackles, including nine assists, and only one missed tackle.

Marcus Spears, who worked in a rotation with Coleman and would be his most likely replacement if he were indeed released, ranked 16th among 3-4 ends, getting credit for a stop on 5.8 percent of his 173 run snaps.

Jason Hatcher, the Cowboys' other starting defensive end, did not rank in's top 23 run-stopping ends in the 3-4.

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