Dallas Cowboys Position Review: Defensive tackle
By Matthew Postins
RattleandHumSports.com is breaking down every position group for the 2013 Dallas Cowboys. Today it’s the defensive tackles.
Defensive tackles: Jason Hatcher (starter), Nick Hayden (starter), Corey Irvin (backup), Frank Kearse (backup).
Other notable players: Jay Ratliff (injured and release during season), Ben Bass (injured reserve; could also play end).
In 2013: Jason Hatcher was a force to be reckoned with for the first half of the season, leading the Cowboys in sacks and filling the void at under tackle that the injured Jay Ratliff was supposed to fill. While that will prove to be a boon to Hatcher on the free agent market this season, as he finished the year with 11 sacks, Ratliff’s absence left a void in the Cowboys’ interior line. Nick Hayden did his best to play the one technique and had some moments, but overall the Cowboys may be able to do better than Hayden long-term. Ratliff’s status became a saga at midseason, as the Cowboys released him. The Cowboys indicated that Ratliff wasn’t healthy enough to play. Ratliff and his agent disagreed, and the Bears signed Ratliff shortly after his release. Ratliff was healthy enough to play against Dallas in December. The injury to Bass hurt, too, as the Texas A&M product was making progress as a swing tackle-end. Some of the Cowboys’ ends were used inside at times this season, but the primary tackles ended up being Hatcher and Hayden, who both miraculously made it through all 16 games as the Cowboys used 19 different defensive linemen during the season.
Looking ahead: Jerry Jones must make serious strides in talent at this position, especially if he decides to stick with the Cover 2. The under tackle position (Hatcher’s role in 2013) is critical to the success of that defense. The Cowboys won’t have the money to go after a high-dollar tackle, or even keep Hatcher, who indicated he’s looking for the highest bidder in free agency. Hayden is signed for 2014 and will be good depth. But the Cowboys need to address the position in the draft and need to hope that Bass gets healthy and can be a quality backup at either tackle position. Unlike 2013, Jones cannot miscalculate at this position and expect the Cowboys to go 8-8 in 2014.
Next up: Conerback