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Mailbag: Can The Cowboys' D-Line Outplay Expectations?


Like many people, I was concerned when the Cowboys neglected to select a DL in this year's draft. However, at a closer look it seems that Ware, Spencer, Ratliff and Hatcher would be a formidable front. Yes they are aging, but can you see them being one of the better 4-3 fronts in the coming season?

Nick: Yes, that might be your starters right there. The Cowboys are clearly looking for quicker linemen up front who can get up field. While you'd like a little more size with the tackles, the idea is to be quick off the ball and be disruptive. I know a lot of people have their opinions of what they want to see with the line, but let's see how Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli coach this thing. They've been good in the past and they should at least get the benefit of the doubt.  

Rowan: The area I worry about is stuffing the run up the middle. It's still somewhat of a mystery which player will start next to Ratliff on the inside. It could be Hatcher, but he might be better as a rotational player or an end than a true one-technique. He'll certainly add to his value if he can serve in that role as a run-stuffer up the middle. But it's not like he's gotten a ton of experience in that spot, so it's hard to say. The ceiling is high, though, with pass rushers like Ware and Spencer. Rod Marinelli wants four guys on the line who can rush the passer, and he'll get that.

Guys, do you all remember the Doug Free that got everyone excited as he was the only Dallas lineman in years to actually run down field to throw a block? Remember the Eagles game back in 2009? That guy was dominant! Any chance he returns to that form?

Nick: I honestly think there is. In fact, I'm not 100 percent sure he has changed at all. I know we all like to think he has regressed, but has he really? Or have our expectations ballooned with him when his paycheck did. It happens. And I'm not saying it's not justified. If a guy makes $8 million per season, we should expect a lot. However, I'm not sure he is that different of a player. He was good in 2009 and 2010 but he had some troubles, too. We just gave him some passes because he was thrown in there. Once he got paid, he didn't get any passes. And that's fine. I just don't think he has changed too much. He's a good player when he plays with technique but he's not powerful enough to get by without that.
Rowan: The struggles and rough outings have particularly mounted the last couple years. Really, the switch to right tackle may not have helped him, either. It's possible he returns to his form of old, when he really did deserve the contract he got. But he'll really have to continue to put in work in the weight room and fix up his technique under Bill Callahan. If he can be serviceable for 16 games and really earn the starting job, then that could justify the new pay cut.

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