FRISCO, Texas – Minutes before the Cowboys took the field for their first padded practice of training camp, head coach Mike McCarthy was praising Gerald McCoy as a major offseason addition to the defensive line.
"Can't say enough about the shape he's in and just the energy that he brings to our defensive front," McCarthy said. "We look for him to be a force inside."
An hour later, McCoy limped off the Ford Center practice field after appearing to get tangled up during an individual drill. Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones confirmed that the six-time Pro Bowler tore his right quadriceps tendon and is expected to miss the season following surgery.
The Cowboys signed McCoy to a three-year, $18 million deal in March to anchor a revamped defensive line under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. The club remains excited about the talent and experience they've added up front, including fellow free-agent additions Dontari Poe, Aldon Smith and most recently Everson Griffen.
But McCoy, a 10-year veteran with 139 career starts, offered the most experience of any defensive lineman on the roster as a projected starter at tackle.
Tyrone Crawford, returning from last year's double hip surgery, is one option to replace McCoy. The Cowboys also will turn to youth: last year's second-round pick Trysten Hill and this year's third-round pick Neville Gallimore.
"Two young players that we will need to come through for us," Jones said. "… Obviously both those guys are high picks for us that we certainly have high expectations for. Both of them play the same position as Gerald and we're looking forward to seeing how they can do."
Hill played 121 defensive snaps in five games last year, posting six tackles and one quarterback pressure, while veterans Maliek Collins (now with the Raiders) and Antwaun Woods took most of the interior line snaps.
"You always hope that players can continue to get better, and Trysten was a young player last year and had some vets in front of him," Jones said. "It's time for him to step up. I know our current coaching staff feels really good about him. They've been encouraged with him in the meeting rooms and how he's digesting the system and certainly also are encouraged by what they've seen so far."
The Cowboys felt Gallimore, an All-Big-12 selection last year at Oklahoma, was value pick at the end of the third round in April – an athletic 300-pounder who can get up the field quickly.
Crawford, back for his ninth season in Dallas, has played everywhere on the defensive line over the years. The hip injury limited him to four games last season, but he was activated from the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list in time for last Friday's opening practice.
"I signed my contract (extension in 2015) as a guy that maybe moved around, or is going to be moved around and has to know every position on the D-Line. That's still my role," he said. "Obviously they want me to know every position on the D-Line and that's what I do. I study to know every position and I work at every position. Wherever I'm needed I go."
Jones added that the Cowboys, as always, will be open-minded about adding players to that position if an opportunity presents itself.
"But the good news is we really felt like our defensive front was one of our deepest groups coming into camp," he said. "We'll just have to work from here."