IRVING, Texas – This time last year, the Cowboys were just hoping Jeremy Mincey could be good enough at defensive end to somewhat replace the departed DeMarcus Ware.
What Mincey didn't give the team in sacks, he made up for with leadership and experience that started to surface with each week last year as the Cowboys marched into the playoffs.
But as the Cowboys continue through the offseason in preparation for 2015, Mincey is still a big part of the defensive plans – although not solely at defensive end. In fact, the less he plays at end means the Cowboys might have found exactly what they've been looking for on the outside.
The Cowboys drafted DeMarcus Lawrence last year in the second round in hopes of finding a dynamic rusher, and have since signed Greg Hardy and drafted Randy Gregory. If that's not enough, the Cowboys also drafted Ryan Russell in the fifth round for his pass-rushing skills.
As the Cowboys enter their second week of OTA practices this week, Mincey says he's starting to expect a few more rushes from the defensive tackle spot, especially in nickel situations. Don't expect the Cowboys to official move Mincey to tackle, but in passing situations, getting the best pass rushers on the field will be a must. If that's the case, Mincey's talents will probably be utilized more inside.
Last year, Mincey only occasionally rushed from the inside, but he expects more of that this year, just because of the talented rushers the Cowboys have added.
"Oh yeah, that's one of my strong suits anyway," Mincey said of rushing from the interior of the line. "With this (scheme), you're not doubled as much. I love going 1-on-1 anyway."
Plus, a halfway-joking Mincey said playing tackle is better with his conditioning.
"It's less running anyway," quipped Mincey, who is certainly the oldest of the group at 31. He jokes that all the younger guys can "do all the running."
But what Mincey is serious about is grooming these younger rushers along, something he said is happening faster than he anticipated.
"These young guys are beasts. They're doing a phenomenal job taking it all in," Mincey said of players like Lawrence and Gregory. "They take pride in their job and their working hard. We're building a brotherhood. Taking some to my camp in Shreveport. Good way to keep them all together."
As for Gregory, Mincey said he can't believe what kind of first step the rookie from Nebraska has so early in his career.
"He's quick as a cat. Dude is quick and instinctive," Mincey said of Gregory. "He might not have the most size or be the biggest guy, but he can torque his body like a rubber band. He's like a walking human rubber band."
What Gregory doesn't have in size, Hardy could make up for it.
"Hardy is just a big animal – a big grizzly bear," said Mincey, who playfully referred to himself as the 'Lion – King of the Jungle.'
But while these defensive linemen have different traits and skill sets, Mincey said that will work to their advantage.
"All of us have different styles in how we play," Mincey said. "I think the combination of each type of player can benefit this team greatly."
Even if it means moving some players to different positions.