- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cowboys’ injury-depleted defensive line didn’t just get by against the Giants. The Dallas front four was a dominant force.
In fact, the four Cowboys who received the highest grades from ProFootballFocus.com’s play-by-play evaluation of the season-opening win were starting defensive linemen.
Much of the credit must go to defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, the most overqualified position coach in the league.
It’s not necessarily a surprise to see defensive end DeMarcus Ware and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher at the top of the list, although this was their first game in a 4-3 scheme. It’s much more noteworthy that defensive end George Selvie and defensive tackle Nick Hayden, a couple of fill-in starters for former Pro Bowlers, performed so well.
Selvie figured his football career could be over when he didn’t get signed all offseason, then seized his opportunity when the Cowboys called him after Anthony Spencer needed knee surgery the first week of training camp. Hayden was out of football last season, but he’s consistently impressed the Cowboys coaches since signing in the spring.
The Cowboys also got quality contributions from reserve defensive tackle Landon Cohen, who was out of football last year and signed with the Cowboys the same day as Selvie, and reserve defensive tackle/end Jerome Long, who was released in the cuts to 53 and re-signed the day before the opener.
“Man, they did an awesome job,” said Hatcher, who had a sack and a hurry. “Hayden just had a monster game. Selvie came in and a few guys came in off the street. Long came in like yesterday and spared us a few plays.
“When you have leaders on the D-line, it’s easy to bring guys in and show them the way. Hats off to those guys, man. They did a tremendous job coming in off the street and doing what they do.”
Ware picked off an Eli Manning screen pass on the first snap of the game. He was relatively quiet the rest of the night, recording one hurry and one pass defensed, but his mere presence as a pass-rushing threat made a major impact.
Selvie benefitted from the Giants sliding protection towards Ware. The 26-year-old journeyman had a critical sack in the red zone, two hurries and a fumble recovery.
Hayden anchored the Dallas run defense, which held the Giants to 3.6 yards per carry, and forced the fumble that safety Barry Church returned for a touchdown.
“I’m really proud of some of these guys coming in off the bus,” Marinelli said. “They played very well and played very hard. We’ll get better.”