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Breaking down the DLs: Dallas

4/16/2011

Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson examines the defensive lines of each NFC East team. Today: Dallas Cowboys.

I simply love the way Jay Ratliff plays. But he is a vastly undersized nose tackle and plays a position that places a ton of wear and tear on the body. His play slipped noticeably last season. I hope this is not the beginning of the end for Ratliff, who was nowhere near the force as an inside run stuffer but did show close to his usual ability as a pass-rusher. His disruptiveness against the pass is promising, though it might prove fruitful to better monitor his number of snaps on early downs. A big-bodied nose tackle might be a welcome addition.

Stephen Bowen is probably going to be a restricted free agent, and Dallas cannot allow this up-and-comer to depart under any circumstance. Jason Hatcher also should be restricted, but Marcus Spears is unrestricted and very well could leave.

Spears fits the mold of a 3-4 end, but is really just a two-down player and doesn’t offer enough of a pass-rush to spend big money on. But he can stop the run, and many teams could be interested. Bowen showed that he is more than capable of excelling while he filled in for Spears, who was injured. Bowen is the far superior pass-rusher, as is Hatcher, who also might have a promising future. Igor Olshansky is an incumbent at defensive end and could be pushed by Bowen or Hatcher -- or an early draft pick such as Cal’s Cameron Jordan. Olshansky is stout at the point, but isn’t a really dynamic playmaker.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.