IRVING, Texas – The rooms along the hallway inside the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch practice facility are labeled the way you would think they would be labeled: tight ends, offensive line and so on. The defensive line used to be there.
Rod Marinelli changed it to Rushmen.
“It’s what we have to do, OK,” said Marinelli, the Cowboys defensive line coach. “It’s something in the four-man front that what you try to identify a position or men the No. 1 thing they’ve got to be able to do, and that it’s very clear.”
In the 3-4 scheme the Cowboys ran from 2005-12, the defensive line was not hugely responsible for the pass rush, though Jay Ratliff had 7 1/2 and six sacks in 2008-09 from his nose tackle spot. In the 4-3 scheme the Cowboys will run this year, the pressure on the quarterback has to come from the defensive line.
DeMarcus Ware is one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL. Anthony Spencer had a career-high 11 sacks in 2012 and was named to the Pro Bowl. The Cowboys do not believe their transitions from outside linebacker to defensive end will be difficult.
Ratliff, however, has seen his sack total decline every year for the last five years. Jason Hatcher has never had more than 4 1/2 sacks in a season. Sean Lissemore and Tyrone Crawford will have to get to the passer more than they did last year, too.
The new sign is more of an attitude check.
“It’s all part of what we are,” Marinelli said. “I make sure we understand it and we go on from there.”