IRVING, Texas – Jason Hatcher finds himself in a rare situation where at 30 years old he believes he's just now entering the prime and upswing of his career.
Hatcher played sporadically early in his career as a rotational linemen, but the last couple of years he's turned into a mainstay on the defensive line and is now coming off back-to-back seasons with at least four sacks.
"My game is definitely going up," Hatcher said. "You could tell the last two years I've been a starter. I don't have a lot of miles on my body. I didn't get a lot of reps my first five years. We aren't going to get into that, but I'm just happy to be a starter now."
He did all of his professional work as a defensive lineman in the 3-4 defense. Hatcher doesn't think the switch to the 4-3 will affect his development on the line, and he looks forward to learning from one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the game in Rod Marinelli.
"I'm excited to be working with him," Hatcher said. "I text him almost every day, I talk to him every day, I say coach what do I need to work on or something like that, he tells me and I try to go out there and hone in and do it. He's one of the best that's ever did it, so I'm going to take his advice."
Hatcher elaborated on his relationship with Marinelli and discussed his role in the new defense, as well as what he's done to become a starter in the league.
You described Marinelli as a great asset to you, is there a lot you guys can text about this early in the year?
Hatcher:"There's a whole lot, especially coming from 3-4 to 4-3. You've got to reprogram yourself from reading to attacking and getting off the ball.
"It's all predicated on you getting off the ball. The quicker you get off the ball, you cause havoc, you make plays. If you're sitting back, reading stuff, that's not what he wants."
What's the biggest difference for you in the switch to the new defense?
Hatcher: "Playing 3-4, you're kind of reading blocks. The 4-3, you're kind of attacking. That's something I did in college, so I'm very excited about it."
Will you only be playing on the interior of the line this year?
Hatcher: "I'm a role player. I'm going to try my best to learn every position on this team, so if somebody goes down – God forbid, somebody goes down – I'll know what to do at that particular position. I'm not going to hold myself back and say I only play three, I only play one, I'm here to play all over the place. Anything to help this defense play better, I'm willing to do it." [embedded_ad]
What have you done the last couple of years to put yourself in the position you're in?
Hatcher: "I worked myself into that guy that can play first, second and third down. When I first came in the league, the only thing I could do was rush the passer. Now they're saying I'm a run stopper. It's the more you can do, man. I'm not a situational guy anymore. I'm a starter in this league. Either I start, or else."
How much of a better fit is this defense for the personnel?
Hatcher: "Either scheme works. We've got great guys. We've got ballplayers on this defense; 3-4, 4-3, it doesn't matter. It is what it is."