In the magnificent years of the Dallas Cowboys one theme has been nearly constant: A star pass-rusher.
Harvey Martin, Leon Lett, Charles Haley, Randy White, Too Tall Jones, Bob Lilly, Jim Jeffcoat, DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis are some of the names that have drawn double-teams from opposing offenses.
Ware, the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks at 117, was released in a salary-cap move this spring.
All that is left is defensive end George Selvie, coming off a career-high seven-sack season, 2014 second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence from Boise State and most likely Henry Melton at defensive tackle, coming off ACL surgery.
None of these players has the star power of Ware, who was the Cowboys’ No. 1 defensive player for numerous seasons.
A standout pass-rusher is what is missing right now from these 2014 Cowboys.
The man coaching the defensive line, Lett, is 12th on the franchise list with 22.5 career sacks. He was a dominant pass-rusher in his prime and has more name recognition than the current group.
“I think you can do it different ways, four guys just going,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “You need a couple of guys with some juice, somebody has to get doubled. Or you’re trying to get a good guy with a matchup, things like that. We go into camp and I like some of these guys and we've just got to put the pads on and see it.”
Marinelli added that “football as you know, is a show-me game.”
Jason Hatcher and Ware were the leaders of the line.
Nick Hayden and Selvie morphed into starters.
But in the draft, the Cowboys valued defense, using seven of their eight picks on that side of the ball. Lawrence (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) with big hands and long arms, is seen as a potential replacement for Ware.
Ben Gardner (6-4, 262), a seventh-round pick from Stanford, impressed the scouts and coaches with his work in college.
Another seventh-round pick, Ken Bishop (6-0, 301), from Northern Illinois, might have a future at the one-technique.
In free agency, the Cowboys added Terrell McClain at defensive tackle and Jeremy Mincey at end. Adding quality depth and youth were the goals as Dallas worked to fix the pass rush after Ware departed for Denver.
The standouts of the offseason moves are Melton and Lawrence.
Melton reached the Pro Bowl in 2012 after compiling six sacks, two forced fumbles and creating havoc for Marinelli’s defense in Chicago.
Marinelli left for Dallas and Melton was hurt just three games into the 2013 season. They are reunited and hope to build on their 2012 success.
Lawrence, though not a first-round pick, might have the most impact from the draft class.
“He’s got the movement,” Marinelli said. “I think he’s really tough and he’s got enough speed out there and he works. I like his work habits, now that’s Step 1, and camp starts is Step 2.”
No star power.
Maybe in time the Cowboys will have it from a pass-rusher.
As Marinelli says, Step 2 is training camp and we get to find out.