(Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2012 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features defensive tackle Jay Ratliff.)
Name: Jay Ratliff
Position: Defensive Tackle
Experience: 8 seasons
Key stat: Ratliff only played in six games, but he still finished fourth on the team with 10 quarterback pressures. Last season was his first in the NFL without a sack.
Contract Status: Signed through 2017.
How He Played In 2012: The 2012 season for Jay Ratliff is one that he would like to soon forget. The training camp injury against the Rams led to him missing the first four games of the season, then the groin injury before the Thanksgiving Day game against the Redskins knocked him out of the last six. This really was a crushing blow to a defense that badly needed him in the lineup not only to handle the run, but where he is so valuable is in his ability to get pressure inside out of the nickel. Without him in there the rotation wasn't as good nor was it as effective as it needed to be. What Ratliff is able to do is draw those blocking assignments his way with the guards, and that allowed Ware and Spencer to have to face more single blocks. Without him in the lineup, opponents were able to focus on the outside and handle the matchups one on one inside.
I thought his finest hour was against the Giants in a game at Cowboys Stadium where he was all over the field with seven tackles, three quarterback pressures and a tackle for loss. Without him in the lineup, there was no other player capable of having this type of production. As much as I like Jason Hatcher, Sean
Lissemore or Josh Brent, it just wasn't going to happen. The last two games of the season are really where they could have used him the most. Against the Saints, Brees felt no pressure in the middle of the pocket and the Redskins were able to push the inside three around in the running game. If they could have just gotten Griffin to throw the ball, they had a shot to win the game.
How Does He Fit: This Monte Kiffin 4-3 scheme should do wonders for Ratliff and what type of player he could become. I believe that he could play either the one or the three and do it very well. From what I observed of him playing in the nickel as an inside rusher, there is no doubt if you let him get on the outside shoulder of the guard and let him get up the field as fast as he can, he will cause problems for the offense. I have always felt that he was more of a 4-3 defensive tackle than he was a nose, so this is a great fit. In this scheme, the defensive coaches want their guys to play with more speed and quickness which is right down the alley for Ratliff. There is a reason that Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett never wavered about Ratliff coming back for this 2013 despite the legal problem he faces in the coming months. He was built to play in this scheme.
Rowan Kavner – There were some who wanted Jay Ratliff gone after his off-the-field issues and miniscule role in the 2012 campaign, and those people have a point, but as far as production goes, it'd be hard to argue the team would be better off without him on the field. He only played in six games, but many players in his condition would have probably sat the whole season out. When he did get in the game, he wasn't near 100 percent, but he made a difference most of the time getting pressure inside. He won't have to go face up as a nose tackle anymore, and playing in one of the gaps could maximize his ability to cause havoc in the backfield. The key for Ratliff is to stay healthy, and if he does so, he should be able to benefit from the defensive switch.