Getting Right On The Line?

starter at nose tackle and arguably the biggest cog in this 3-4 defense. Ferguson hasn't played a down yet in the preseason and isn't expected to suit up Saturday night against Houston, still nursing a sprained ankle.

Now Ferguson probably will be ready by the Sept. 11 regular-season opener in San Diego, but don't expect him to be in the tip-top condition. Parcells surely isn't. So that means he could get to the first game relying heavily on Glover, and then an unproven rookie? Not likely. So that's where Carson could have an edge. And it's certainly not out of the question to assume Johnson ends up on the practice squad.

OK, so we've settled on Carson for now. Let's get back to Ratliff, who would be the ninth defensive lineman if he were to make the cut. The Cowboys like his motor and he's shown some versatility in practice, occasionally lining up as a goal-line tight end on offense.

Now nine defensive linemen seems rather high, especially if you're playing a 3-4 defense.

But now we're getting back to those "swing players." Remember, Ware has been included in this original nine, and technically, he's listed as a linebacker. In fact, he's the starting outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. But when the Cowboys go to either their four-man nickel front or their 4-3 alignment, Ware lines up as the right defensive end.

But with Parcells crunching these numbers, desperately trying to get down to 53, maybe he's throwing Ware in with the linebackers. So if so, now we're back to just eight defensive linemen.

There we go. Are we done? Are we settled with these eight defensive linemen making the team?

  • Greg Ellis
  • La'Roi Glover
  • Jason Ferguson
  • Kenyon Coleman
  • Marcus Spears
  • Chris Canty
  • Leo Carson
  • Jay Ratliff

Now that's eight. And that's probably the number we're gonna keep. Sounds so simple, right?

Well, we've got one more. Eric Ogbogu. He's either a defensive end or a linebacker, or actually, as Parcells said, Ogbogu has his own "specialty" category.

Ogbogu, an eighth-year veteran, has played defensive end the past two years with the Cowboys, but Parcells moved him to outside linebacker in the 3-4 this summer. Then, two weeks into camp, Parcells moved him back to end to expose him to that position for a while. Now, he continues to play both.

And Ogbogu has made some plays. He had two sacks last Monday night against Seattle, one of which forced a safety, and he also forced a fumble.

Now Parcells admitted Friday he really doesn't know what he's going to do with Ogbogu. He knows the veteran pass-rusher will play in the league this year. He just hasn't' figured out if it will be in Dallas.

"He's very much a specialty player," Parcells said. "Ogbogu will play in the National Football League this year. There's people that are interested in him. I know that.

"And really, our best three outside rushers are Ware, Ellis and Ogbogu . . . as we stand right this minute. So that gives (Ogbugu) a value that you wouldn't (expect). And he can do a few special teams things. He can get by OK and be productive. That's another quality that I like."

Parcells, who had Ogbogu back in 1999 when he coached the Jets, raved how Ogbogu has matured "light years" since his early years in the league.

Clearly, Ogbogu must be figured into the mix as well - either as a defensive lineman, a linebacker or his own "special" category.

So there you have it on the defensive line. A big mess, if you ask me.

Eight seems to be the magic number, but we've just counted about 10 who could seriously make this team and probably contribute right away.

Wow, tougher than I expected.

So on second thought, let's just let Bill do it. Let's let him figure out his defensive line.

Maybe we'll try to be right about something else.

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