On the Cowboys and pass rush

April, 9, 2012
4/09/12
4:45
PM ET
In the absence of news, I believe we can just talk about the draft as much and as often as we want for the next 17 days. I assume you all agree. I assume this without asking, because I feel as though I have my finger on the pulse of the readership of this blog.

To that end, we have this from the Dallas Cowboys' official site on something Jerry Jones said about Victor Butler and the pass rush at the NFL owners meetings a couple of weeks ago. Jerry says the team is high on Butler as someone who can help the pass rush in 2012:
"There's some concern with setting the edge with him, but as far as the pass rush we know we can get plays out of Butler. He had the highest ratio of successful plays for the time he played on our defense when he was in there."

That last part of the quote is hard to read and harder to understand, but my initial thought on Butler is that he's a guy that had a great preseason in 2011, and if he was going to help the pass rush, Rob Ryan should have been able to find ways for him to do so last season. It's not as though Anthony Spencer was racking up the sacks and there was no way to take him off the field. If they really believed Butler was a key to unlocking a better pass rush, I believe we would have seen him do that. So I'm not sure how much stock we should put into this offseason talk about Butler from the team's owner.

I still think the Cowboys will look, if they can, to upgrade the pass rush via the draft. Calvin Watkins wrote Monday morning that the Cowboys see guys like Quintin Coples, Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw as too similar to Spencer to make them worthy of a first-round pick. That's an interesting bit of insight and a useful look into the Cowboys' thinking as the draft approaches, and it makes me think that their main reason for drafting one of those guys (if they did) would be the fact that Spencer is only signed for one more year.

If I had the blogger mock draft to do over again, I think I'd give Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox to the Cowboys. He'd help the pass rush right away, whether from the nose tackle or a 3-4 defensive end position. He'd allow them some flexibility in the short term and the long term, especially as it pertains to the idea of moving Jay Ratliff to end. They haven't wanted to do that so far, but adding a strong interior pass-rushing presence like Cox would allow them to move all of their linemen around and find ways to maximize everyone's production and alleviate wear and tear on Ratliff and others. That may be the best draft solution to the pass rush -- a guy who can help right away at a position where they need depth and who can also develop in the system and help down the road, even if they continue with Spencer at the outside linebacker spot.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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