*(Editor's Note: Over the next two weeks, football analyst Bryan Broaddus will take a closer look at each position, highlighting the standouts and players who need more production. Today, we will focus on the defensive line position.) *
Defensive Line Breakdown
Top Performer: Jason Hatcher
When Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli were brought on board after the conclusion of the 2012 season, their vision of what this defensive line was going to consist of was a four man line of DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher. As they sit today, only Ware and Hatcher are currently in the mix. If you asked me to rank before the season these four players, Ware, Spencer, Ratliff and Hatcher would have been my order.
To his credit, Hatcher has gone far and above what I believed that he could have done. I really wasn't sure where he was going to play in this scheme whether that was the one or three and I believe that the front office and coaches were having the same thoughts. Where I didn't believe he was going to be able to play with enough power at the one, he has proven me wrong. I am not saying that is his best spot because I like him at the three but has done things I thought he couldn't have done. It was very evident that without him in the lineup against the Saints, that his ability to help in the run but more importantly how well he rushes the passer inside was missing as well.
What Jason Hatcher has done through his play is make this front office sit up and take notice when it comes to making a decision on his future with this team.
Need More From: DeMarcus Ware
Right or wrong, on our radio show "Talkin' Cowboys" I have challenged DeMarcus Ware to once again rise up and be the player that we all have seen in seasons gone by because this defense needs that kind of player.
When Ware was lining up in those practices in Oxnard, I swore to Mickey Spagnola and Rowen Kavner that Ware had turned the clock back five years and this season could turn out to be one of his best ever, but injury has once again robbed him of that opportunity. Ware showed a great deal of guts playing last season at half the player he is capable of being and this year, could very well be the same. As hard as this to say for a player that has given his team so much, he is going to have to dig deeper and find ways to not only be a factor in the running game but be that dominate player against the pass.
This scheme requires pressure from its front four and without that pressure, it is difficult to have success in it. If this team in fact are going to make a run in these last six games and win this division, it is going to be on the shoulders of Sean Lee and DeMarcus Ware and as an organization, you would want it no other way. For six games, this defense needs DeMarcus Ware's very best otherwise we will all be talking about what could have been.
There have been some difficult games for this defensive line this season but there have also been some times where they have played well and helped this team to a victory. The road doesn't get much easier with three division games and the matchup with the Bears and Packers. [embedded_ad]
What worries the most about this group is the ability to get off blocks in the running game especially the last three weeks against the Lions, Vikings and Saints. There have been too many games this season where this defense has allowed offenses to be in manageable down and distance situations because of their inability to hold up against the run. For the next six week, this defensive line is going to be tested each and every snap to have to be physical in playing in the running game and with Sean Lee out at least the next two games, there is not that safety net of him being there to make plays.
This line needs to do a much better job of playing on the other side of the ball like they did against the Redskins and Eagles which then will help them with their pressure in the passing game.