FRISCO, Texas– The Cowboys' defensive line has heard the outside chatter all offseason:
There's not a proven pass rusher on the roster, no one with double-digit sacks in a single season, and two of their most talented guys (DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory) must start the year on the Reserve/Suspended list.
In Sunday's opener against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium, the D-Line has a chance to prove the doubters wrong.
"We've just got to cut it loose," defensive end Benson Mayowa said. "All the talking is done."
The key lies in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's "four equals one" philosophy: four linemen working together to pressure Giants quarterback Eli Manning and stop the run.
"Now it's kind of an 'eight equals one,'" Marinelli said, referring to his preferred eight-man rotation of tackles and ends.
"You can't rush as a Lone Ranger. You can't do your own deal. If you rush together, knocking down rush lanes and contain, all those things, and part of working together is never giving up on a rush."
The Cowboys kept eight defensive linemen on the 53-man roster. All but rookie end Charles Tapper (back; ruled out of Sunday's opener) are healthy for Week 1: Jack Crawford, Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain, Mayowa, Cedric Thornton, David Irving and rookie Maliek Collins. Linebacker Kyle Wilber also has the versatility to play end if needed.
Lawrence led the team with eight sacks last season but isn't eligible to play until Week 5. Mayowa, who signed as a restricted free agent in March, has two career sacks but the Cowboys believe he can thrive in Marinelli's system.
"These men have an opportunity to go in, and you've got to start somewhere to be a great player," Marinelli said. "So let's start this week."
The line didn't have much consistency in preseason due to injuries. Mayowa, Tyrone Crawford, McClain and Collins all missed practice and game time.
"I've seen great things out of those guys and I'm excited to actually bring it to a game where we're all in there together," Tyrone Crawford said. "Our rushes right now, we've been working together and doing good things. Hopefully our 'four equals one' rush can be what we want it to be this year."
Pressure on Manning is vital. The 13-year veteran has the most all-time completions (472), passing yards (5,826) and touchdowns (44) against the Cowboys.
It'll take a revamped Dallas D-Line to slow him down.
"They're all hard workers. Whatever they've got, I know they're going to give it," Marinelli said. "We've got some young talent there. Now it's time to put it on display and let's see us execute."