HeHateMe Posted July 12, 2005 Share Posted July 12, 2005 Because some of you diehards inquire about Dallas once in a while...you know the old saying, keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. For those who take the time to educate yourself, please, I encourage all comments. Good or bad. You know I'm up for it. http://www.dallascowboys.com/news_camp_notes.cfm?id=03580352-ADE0-986B-96AAF21B7FFCBD2E 3-4 Switch, New Players Highlight D-Line Changes By Nick Eatman DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer July 10, 2005, 7:41 PM (CDT) (Editor's Note: This is the first of a 10-part series, DallasCowboys.com analyzing the Cowboys position-by-position as they begin final preparations for the July 28 start to training camp. Today will feature the defensive line.) IRVING, Texas- No other position received more attention this off-season than the entire defensive line. And that includes before, during and even after the NFL Draft in late April. All spring and summer, the big talk around Valley Ranch centered on the possible, and now what appears to be certain move to the 3-4 defense. Now neither head coach Bill Parcells nor owner Jerry Jones actually said the Cowboys would indeed make a permanent switch. In fact, they still haven't said as much. They did say before the draft, that moving to the 3-4 would be a strong consideration if they indeed found the right pieces to the puzzle through free agency and the draft. So guess what? They did that, signing a bulldozer of a defensive tackle in Jason Ferguson, who not only has experience in the 3-4 as a nose guard, but has played under Parcells with the Jets (1997-99). The Cowboys then bolstered their defensive end position in the draft, using both first-round picks to select Troy University's Demarcus Ware (11th overall) and then LSU's Marcus Spears (20th). Yes, things will look completely different on the defensive line this season, starting first with the alignment of the 3-4. As for the personnel, the Cowboys weren't looking simply for new players, but more. While Jones is fully aware of the importance offensive stars such as Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin had in winning three Super Bowls in the mid-1990's, he also knows his defense wasn't too shabby either. Especially in that defensive line rotation. When the Cowboys were ruling the NFC East more than a decade ago, they were doing it with a rather deep defensive line that included the likes of Jim Jeffcoat, Leon Lett, Chad Hennings and Jimmie Jones. Remember those names? Sure you do. And they were just the backups to players like Tony Tolbert, Tony Casillas, Russell Maryland and Charles Haley, who many have said is the most influential player in leading the Cowboys to their glory days. So that's what the Cowboys have in mind when they talk about defensive line. Rotation, rotation, rotation. Lots of players, moving in and out of the lineup, trying to stay fresh for four quarters and hoping the offensive line will wear down first. And that is how things are shaping up for the Cowboys' defensive line, especially if some of these rookies pan out as expected. If a couple of mini-camps are any indication, it looks like Spears won't need much time to adjust to this level. The rookie from LSU was already working with the first-team defense and can fit in either the 3-4 or the 4-3, as a natural defensive end. And he seems to take instructions well, too. After coming in a bit heavy for the first mini-camp, in late April, Spears playfully took the ribbing from Parcells, who doled out nicknames such as "Fats Domino" and "Chubby Checker." While Spears, who played around 305 pounds at LSU, took the jokes in stride, he came back for the late-May mini-camp weighing around 293 pounds. While Ware doesn't need to lose any weight, (if anything, gain a few pounds), he does have plenty of things to improve. He played defensive end in college, but the 6-4, 251-pounder won't be an every-down end in the NFL. Parcells has said many times, Ware will not line up across offensive tackles for long stretches of the game. That's why Ware will probably play more of an outside linebacker in the 3-4. But make no mistake, when it's time to rush the quarterback in passing situations, expect Ware to be bursting off the edge. If the biggest question of the off-season centered on the Cowboys moving to the 3-4, the next-best debate concerned the roles of Pro Bowl tackle La'Roi Glover and defensive end Greg Ellis. While both seem to be better fits in the 4-3, and both have publicly stated they prefer the 4-3, the Cowboys are still expecting both players to have a major part once again in helping resurrect this defense. Parcells said he wants to reduce the playing time of both Glover and Ellis some 15 to 20 percent, but that has more to do with keeping them fresh for an entire game and season, rather than replacing them with other players. And it seems people are forgetting that Glover has not only played in the 3-4 defense, but went to the Pro Bowl as a nose guard in 2001, registering eight sacks. What a nightmare it could be for opposing centers, to face a constantly-rotating combination of Glover and Ferguson for an entire game. Glover is more of a speed rusher who can get to the quarterback, while Ferguson is the typical, hard-nosed defensive tackle who will see nothing but double-teams all season long. He has played the nose guard in the 3-4 and not only understands the concepts, but knows what it takes to play for Parcells, who actually drafted Ferguson in the seventh round of the 1997 draft. Ferguson signed a five-year deal with the Cowboys early in free agency, receiving a $9 million signing bonus. Certainly that kind of money suggests he will have a large role, but that doesn't mean he has to be on the field for every play. And if those two aren't enough at tackle, Leo Carson, who has started 15 games last year, should be able to provide some solid depth inside. At end, Ellis will have to learn a new position when the team plays the 3-4. At 6-6, 271, he is considered an undersized end in the 4-3, much less the 3-4, where ends usually see a barrage of double-teams from the offensive tackles and guards. But clearly the Cowboys think Ellis can be effective in either scheme. The team's sack leader for the last four years is looking to become just the second player in club history (Jethro Pugh, 1968-72) to lead the team in sacks for five consecutive seasons. Behind Ellis and Spears, the Cowboys are hoping fourth-round pick Chris Canty can get healthy and become one of the biggest steals of the 2005 draft. The 6-7, 280-pound rookie from Virginia was once projected a top-15 overall pick in the draft, before suffering a pair of major injuries. He tore three ligaments in his knee during his senior season last October, needing major reconstructive surgery. And Canty has also underwent two eye surgeries to repair a detached retina, an injury he suffered in late January when he was struck with a glass bottle as a bystander in a night club altercation. Clearly, both injuries affected his draft status, but the Cowboys never wavered from their infatuation of Canty. In fact, they made a draft-day trade to move back into the fourth round and snag him with the 132nd overall pick. While he has missed both mini-camps, the Cowboys are confident he will be ready to either start training camp on July 28, or at least be ready to practice after the first week or two into camp. A healthy Canty will add some depth at end, along with four-year pro Kenyon Coleman, who certainly has the size (6-5, 285) to play in either scheme. Both Coleman and Eric Ogbogu, who will also play a lot of outside linebacker, need to have strong training camps to stick around. With Coleman entering his eighth season, and Ogbogu his eighth, the surge of highly-drafted rookies leave little, if any room for error with the veterans. FITTING IN Defensive Ends: Greg Ellis: Looks to be a challenging season, having to play a new role in the 3-4 scheme. But the added players around him could help him flourish. Marcus Spears : The Cowboys were thrilled he was still around at No. 20. Will be even more ecstatic if he meets expectations. Demarcus Ware: Might end up playing more OLB, but for now, he's a listed as a DE. And as long as he gets to the QB, no one should care where he lines up. Kenyon Coleman: The Cowboys are still waiting for him to come into his own. Always had the size, but time is running out this year. Chris Canty: If he returns to 100 percent, overcoming both the knee and eye injuries . . . watch out. At 6-7, 280, Canty has 'dominating' potential. Eric Ogbogu: Like Ware, Ogbogu lined up more as an OLB in the 3-4. While he had 3½ sacks against the Bears last Thanksgiving, time is also running out. Jay Ratliff: Seventh-round draft pick supposedly with a big motor. Playing more DT at Auburn, but will get a look at end for now. Defensive Tackles: La'Roi Glover: Wasn't excited about starting mini-camps with the second-team behind Ferguson. But Glover is simply too good not to play. Expect nothing less than a sixth-straight Pro Bowl. Jason Ferguson: And here's the reason why Glover can be even more successful. Ferguson will clog up the middle and wear down opposing centers even more this year. Leonardo Carson: Started 15 games last year, but can't afford a slow start in training camp or the preseason games. Will be tough to beat out Glover or Ferguson. Jermaine Brooks: The Cowboys expected a lot from Brooks last year and he wasn't up to the challenge. He's not as high on the radar this year. Maybe that's how he likes it. Thomas Johnson: Rookie free agent from Middle Tennessee State will have his work cut out for him. Practice squad might be the most practical destination. Chris Van Hoy: Ditto here. Although despite joining the team later than the other rookie free agents, the Arlington, Texas native could turn some heads with his intensity. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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