(Editor's Note: In conjunction with the DallasCowboys.com position series, here's a look back at how each player performed last season. Today's piece features the defensive tackles.)
Henry Melton --Then a member of the Chicago Bears, Melton last a grand total of three weeks after his 44-tackle, six-sacks 2012 season. He was carted off the field with a torn ACL during Chicago's 40-23 win against Pittsburgh, ending his season in mid-September. It was a huge loss for the Bears, as Melton cranked out 68 tackles and 13 sacks from the three-technique spot in the two seasons prior to that.
Nick Hayden --It says a lot about the Cowboys' defensive line in 2013 that Hayden was one of just two guys to play in all 16 games. While the rest of the line rotated around him, Hayden put together a decent season – especially considering he was viewed as a camp body during the preseason. He notched 44 tackles, mainly as a run-stuffer, and he famously recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the win against the Vikings. He did not managed a single sack all season, however.
Terrell McClain --McClain is the lesser-known of the new defensive tackles, as he doesn't boast the Pro Bowl pedigree of Henry Melton. He played all 16 games for the Texans, last season, though that was as a nose tackle in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense. He performed admirably, but it was mostly just in spot duty – he didn't record a start and he managed just 10 tackles. That was a welcome change from the 2012 season, however, as he appeared in just four games and didn't record any stats. * *when he is on the move. Non-stop motor and effort in the way he plays.
Ben Bass --Much like his counterpart Tyrone Crawford, Bass' 2013 season ended before it could even get started. Bass dislocated his shoulder the Thursday before the season opener against New York and wound up on season-ending injured reserve, as the Cowboys could not afford to hold a roster spot for him. It was his second stint on IR, as he wound up missing the last few weeks of the 2012 season with an ankle injury.Ken Bishop --The Cowboys were impressed enough by Bishop's efforts at Northern Illinois that they invited him to Valley Ranch as one of their pre-draft visits. His statline as a college nose tackle is definitely impressive – Bishop made 70 tackles as an interior defensive lineman last season. On top of that astonishing number, he added seven tackles for loss to earn consensus first-team All-MAC honors.** *Davon Coleman -- *Depending on who you talk to, there were those that were more impressed by Coleman, who went undrafted, than his college teammate Will Sutton, a third round pick. His college production certainly merits that, as he notched 165 tackles, 31 tackles for loss and 16 sacks in four seasons. The 2013 season was probably his best, as he tied for the team lead with 8.5 sacks as a starter alongside Sutton.
Amobi Okoye –Another player hoping to bounce back after missing the 2013 season with health concerns. A medical issue sidelined Okoye for the entirety of last season, but he has proven he still has some gas in the tank. Playing for the Chicago Bears in 2011 and 2012, he managed 40 combined tackles and five combined sacks as a rotational, non-starter.
Chris Whaley --Whaley was one of Texas' first players signed to an undrafted contract after the Longhorns failed to produce a draft pick this past spring. What's impressive about that is Whaley didn't play the final month of his last season in Austin, after he sustained a knee injury. He still managed an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection. Interestingly, Whaley is a former Longhorn running back who wound up at defensive tackle – which is the same career [embedded_ad]
trajectory as his new teammate Henry Melton.
Scout's Take:This group has a chance to have a really nice one-two punch with Henry Melton and Terrell McClain inside. Tyrone Crawford will also see some action as well in the nickel packages and some base looks as well. Keep an eye on the progress of Davon Coleman and Ken Bishop as well. Both of these rookies really were impressive when I had a chance to study them off their college tape in this past draft. Veterans Nick Hayden and Ben Bass also return to be part of the rotation. Hayden was the starter in 2013 but I believe that you will see a serious challenge from McClain who can not only play with power at that one technique but also has better quickness and the pass rush moves that Hayden does not have. If this defense is going to improve in applying pressure, I believe that it's going to have to start with these players at tackle. - *Bryan Broaddus *