Dallas, TX - We continue our countdown to training camp during this dry spell in the football news cycle talking about the defensive starters along the Defensive line and their backups.
One of the most debated topics this offseason has been who will be lining up along the defensive front when the Cowboys face off against the 49er’s at AT&T Stadium in September. After a free agency period that saw carrier Cowboys DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher depart for new teams its little wonder why.
Getting a rotation of the best eight to ten players is imperative to the success of the defensive line this season.
After training camp is said and done these are the players who I think will be contributing to that rotation.
D Law is the real deal and he is only going to look better once the team starts wearing pads. Long arms and a strong, stout frame will help him hold up against the run and propel him from being a projected 3rd down player to perhaps a three down player in his very first year.
Jeremy Mincey will come on the field to spell Lawrence in order to keep him fresh to attack the passer. Crawford may also see some time here if the team is trying out a different look. Jason Garret is on record saying they think Crawford can play all four line positions.
In all likelihood Anthony Spencer won’t be available for the start of the season. His recovery from knee surgery will take time. If everything goes well he will be an active part of the defensive line in the second half of the season.
Henry Melton has to be the Pro Bowl Henry Melton he was the last time he played under Rod Marinelli if Dallas is going to improve as a defense. The Cowboys need him to push up field and cause chaos in the backfield for opposing teams. He has the ability but like a lot of other Cowboys he has to stay healthy to display it.
The rest of the rotation is rounded out by Amobi Okoye, Terrell McClain and Tyrone Crawford. I really like the upside of Okoye. Bringing him in is a move reminiscent of Seattle or San Francisco and if anyone can work magic on players with potential its Marinelli and Leon Lett. This is Okoye’s second stop on a team with a Marinelli defense and calls the coach his “Master Splinter”.
The coaching staff likes McClain’s quickness and burst. I expect him to start at the nose it but it is also likely he will see some time at the 3-technique when Dallas is trying to exploit different mismatches.
McClain brings a lot to the 1 technique. His strength and quickness will allow him to make plays from a position that traditionally only takes up blockers. If McClain performs to this potential then his presence on the team also makes Nick Hayden expendable and will save the team money if they decide to cut him.
Tyrone Crawford will see snaps at the nose too. His versatility is really an asset to this team but his true value will be utilized at the left defensive end. Nick Hayden is a solid player and can serve as the primary backup were McClain to go down.
Selvie was solid last season and is the first example people go to when describing the abilities of Rod Marinelli. If he can come off the couch and get seven sacks what could he do after a full year in the system and training with the team?
The Battle between Crawford and Selvie will be one of the most intense in all of training camp. Crawford could supplant Selvie as the starter at the position by the time the season ends but at its start I think the man they go with is Selvie.
Regardless of wins the starting role both players will see plenty of time at left end. I see Crawford as essentially a fifth starter. He will be getting snaps all over the defensive line.
Just like on the right side, Spencer can provide depth to the left side but only after he is done rehabbing his knee.
There’s a lot of time between now and the start of the season. Any number of things could happen between now and then. In late June though this is how things look to sort themselves out to this writer, for now anyway.