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Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Cowboys DL no longer position of strength

By Todd Archer

IRVNG, Texas -- The earliest Jay Ratliff will reach the field is Oct. 20 against Philadelphia now that he is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.

Anthony Spencer will be ready for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the New York Giants, but he will have less than a week of practice after undergoing knee surgery July 25. It is not possible to expect Spencer to be able to play a full game at a high level after such a long absence.

Tyrone Crawford is on crutches, wearing a cast because of a torn Achilles’ tendon suffered in the first training-camp practice and is out for the year.

All offseason the Cowboys talked about the defensive line being a strength, as if saying it actually made it so.

Nick Hayden, who was out of football last year, will replace Ratliff in the starting lineup. George Selvie, who was out of football for two months this summer after his release from Jacksonville, could start or at least see significant action with Spencer working his way back. He has three sacks in 36 games for three teams.

Ben Bass, who made the Cowboys’ roster last year after gaining a tryout to the rookie camp, is projected to be Crawford’s replacement based on his ability to play end and tackle. Landon Cohen came in the same day as Selvie and could find his way into the defensive line rotation. Kyle Wilber, who barely played as a rookie outside linebacker in 2012, is another rotation player. Sean Lissemore is another rotation guy, but seems to be a better fit for a 3-4 defense than a 4-3 scheme.

The Cowboys chose not to select a defensive lineman in last April’s draft. They didn’t like Sharrif Floyd in the first round because, as Jerry Jones said, he did not possess the “fast twitch,” they want out of defensive linemen. They passed on defensive linemen in every other round, too.

Remember, the Cowboys believed the defensive line was a position of strength.

Rod Marinelli has earned rave reviews from the front office, fellow coaches and players during his short time with the club. He is a mix of pass-rush whisperer and task-master.

He will have to be at his best with Ratliff out for six games at least, Spencer attempting to return to form and Crawford out for the year.

In April, they viewed the defensive line as a strength. Now it’s a question mark.