IRVING, Texas – Rod Marinelli's defensive line philosophy isn't about the math. It's about the message.
"I always use the term 'four equals one,'" he said. "Four men equals one in terms of rush lanes, in the run (game), everything we're doing. We're all accountable to the defense."
Patching together an effective line in the upcoming 2016 season (particularly in the first month given the looming NFL suspensions for Randy Gregory and, reportedly, possibly DeMarcus Lawrence) requires a different number for the Cowboys' defensive coordinator:
"Eight," he says, meaning the number of rushmen he typically rotates onto the four-man line.
Gregory is set to miss the four games of the regular season, and Lawrence will appeal his reported possible four-game suspension, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said last week on 105.3 The Fan. Losing both for a month would mean losing arguably the team's two most gifted pass rushers.
It would be a setback, but it doesn't change the foundation of Marinelli's system. He has never relied on one or two players. He wants a full complement of contributors who can play multiple spots and keep the overall group fresh.
A perfect example, he says, is Jack Crawford, whom the team re-signed to a one-year deal last month. Crawford played every spot on the line last season and nearly half the defensive snaps.
"He had four sacks as a rotational guy and had a lot of hits, pressure, he's fresh," Marinelli said. "He comes in and has a great motor."
The Cowboys added two veterans in free agency, defensive end Benson Mayowa and defensive tackle Cedric Thornton, who are starting candidates to begin the season. Starting defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford could move outside to defensive end if needed.
The team also drafted a pair of linemen, defensive tackle Maliek Collins and defensive end Charles Tapper, who could make the rotation as rookies. Marinelli introduced both to the scheme at last weekend's rookie minicamp.[embeddedad0]
The Cowboys' defense tied for 25th in sacks last season (31) and Marinelli wants more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Depth could be an issue early on in 2016, but Marinelli will continue to preach the same message.
"It's the motor and the skill and the attitude for us," he said.