SAN ANTONIO – Nose tackle Josh Brent was the first name out of Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones’ mouth when asked who stood out on film from Sunday’s Blue-White scrimmage.
With Jay Ratliff resting a sore hip, Brent played with the starting defense. The backup was a bright spot on an otherwise bad day for Rob Ryan’s first unit. Not that Brent’s performance was surprising.
The 6-foot-2, 318-pound Brent proved himself to be a quality backup as a rookie last season. He’s consistently overpowered the young centers and guards throughout training camp, strengthening the belief that he was a steal as a supplemental seventh-round pick.
“When he comes in the game, there’s drop-off at all,” said Ratliff, who has played in the last three Pro Bowls. “He just has a different style. He’s a bigger guy, stronger and just as smart.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean Brent’s role will expand in his second season. Ratliff has worked some at defensive end, but the plan is still for him to play the vast majority of the snaps at nose tackle.
Brent focuses on maximizing his impact on the field, not worrying about increasing his playing time.
“I still have a Pro Bowler in front of me,” Brent said. “He’s the best nose tackle in the NFL. Until I become the best, I don’t think I’ll be able to step up on the field as much as people think I will.”
Brent does provide the Dallas defense a different dimension. The 285-pound Ratliff gives foes fits with his quickness and athleticism. Brent has the quickness of a former AAU basketball player, but his game is based primarily on power. He’s more of a prototypical 3-4 run-stuffing nose tackle with disruptive tendency.
Their games and frames will always be different, but Brent wants to be more like Ratliff.
“You can learn a whole lot from watching the intensity that he plays with, the tempo that he plays with, the approach that he takes to the game,” Brent said. “Those are the things I take from him, even though we’re not the same player.”