IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys know not all of their 16 defensive linemen on the team will be healthy to start the year or will make the final roster.
Some of those moves made this offseason were on players coming off injury. It's a tactic executive vice president and director of player personnel Stephen Jones knows isn't foolproof, and he's not expecting all of those players to get rolling immediately.
Among those players are Anthony Spencer, who's coming off microfracture knee surgery, and Henry Melton, who's coming off a torn ACL. Rookie free agent defensive lineman Chris Whaley's also coming off a serious knee injury, while free agent signing Amobi Okoye missed all of 2013 with an undisclosed medical issue.
"A lot of these guys we're well aware of, but when you're a little bit like we are on the defensive line after what we just went through, you've got to put a lot of hooks in the water," Jones said. "We need numbers, and we'll probably go heavy there in camp, and you get a couple of these guys come through for us. Obviously, a guy like Whaley – same ilk as Melton, a running back at Texas converted to defensive line – Rod certainly liked his movement skills and the things he brought to the table, but he's another guy that's going to take some time." [embedded_ad]
The Cowboys don't have a ton of time to be patient in repairing their last-ranked defense. But they're doing what they believe is necessary and taking calculated risks with the hope that by the season opener, they'll have a younger, rejuvenated defensive line.
But they're not going to rush back the players coming off injury who need this time in the offseason to get into playing condition.
"If you're talking about Spencer, Whaley, Amobi, those guys, they're not going to be in the mix early," Jones said. "So you're looking at some other guys, hopefully you're working through who's the cream of that crop. You've got some plans for each one of them, but obviously we know exactly what Anthony and Henry can do, and we know what Amobi can do if he can get healthy."
Okoye was a top 10 pick of the Texans in 2007. He recorded 5.5 sacks his rookie year, but he never reached that number again the next five seasons playing with the Texans and the Bears. Still, he showed enough in that latter stop to make an impression on Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and the Dallas personnel department. "Amobi's been dealing with some medical issues that he's got to overcome, and a little bit the same way, if he gets back from them, then Amobi can play," Jones said. "He played very well for Rod. Obviously, we've got somebody who knows him well."