Thursday, July 23, 2009

Training Camp Preview - Part 7 - Defensive Line

The Cowboys appear strong on the defensive line heading into training camp. At least in terms of starters. Depth is another story, but there are some players with experience providing some depth. Marcus Spears, Igor Olshansky and Jay Ratliff will definitely be the starters. Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher should provide veteran depth at defensive end but there is concern about the depth at tackle. Here is a quick look at each position heading into camp.

Defensive End - Igor Olshansky was brought in to replace Chris Canty and I think the transition to Olshansky will be seamless. I am interested to get a good look at Olshansky at training camp because I haven't seen him play very much. I know he is big but I want to see his strength and quickness. Marcus Spears had a very good season last year but most people don't notice because they try to judge him based on statistics. In Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme the defensive end needs to be a run stopper and Spears is starting to excel at that job. I want to see that he is still motivated to prove that he was worth a first round pick several years ago. Jason Hatcher was drafted as a project several years ago and has shown flashes of dominant play when given an opportunity. I hope to see him making plays in camp that force the coaches to give him more playing time during the season. Stephen Bowen is solid and should continue to provide depth but he will have to fight for a roster spot with Marcus Dixon. Dixon is a sleeper to steal a roster spot after getting a year to develop on the practice squad. I'll be watching him closely during camp to find out if he looks ready for the big time.

Defensive Tackle - Jay Ratliff is a pro bowler and is extremely active against the pass. He is primed for another stellar season. There is no concern about his preparation for the season from me, but I am concerned about the depth behind him. It appears the coaches are pegging Junior Siavii to fill the backup role. Siavii has the size but very little NFL experience. If he can eat up blockers with his big frame then he will probably win the job, but Tim Anderson from Ohio State will be trying to take the backup role from him during training camp.

Defensive line really looks like a position of strength for the defense. I think the Cowboys will be improved against the run this season partly due to the defensive line. The only worry I have about the line is the depth, but it looks like the Cowboys have plenty of players with the ability to fill in when needed.

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