Cowboys plan to keep Jay Ratliff at NT

May, 7, 2012
5/07/12
1:59
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We have an occasional conversation on here about whether the Dallas Cowboys will or should consider moving nose tackle Jay Ratliff to defensive end. But this is not, apparently, a topic that gets discussed among the members of the Cowboys' coaching staff. Calvin Watkins, off of a recent conversation with defensive line coach Brian Baker, reports that moving Ratliff to end is not something that is being considered:
Baker said to keep Ratliff fresh during the season taking him off the field on some first and second downs might work because the team has confidence in the abilities of Josh Brent and Sean Lissemore to play some nose tackle.

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesThe Cowboys plan to limit Jay Ratliff's playing time in order to keep him fresh.
"He will take all the third downs unless somebody proves they're a better pass rusher inside," Baker said. "Until that happens, if he's getting a little worn we'll save him for third down."

So the priority, we are left to assume, is that interior pass rush. The Cowboys fear that moving Ratliff to end would deprive them of the inside rush and make their pass rush easier to defend since teams would know where it's coming from. And that's fair enough, I guess, as a theory.

But if the concern about Ratliff is whether he wears down as the season goes along, how can they so stubbornly rule out the idea of moving him farther from the middle of the line? Wouldn't a more healthy Ratliff, rushing from an end spot, be of more value through the course of the season than a banged-up one playing only on third downs in December?

And if the concern about the pass rush is at all rooted in the fact that Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware draw double-teams, wouldn't it make some sense to play Ratliff at the end spot opposite Ware's side, thereby moving one of those double-teams farther away from the other and opening up some room for someone else to get through the line from the interior?

As many of you are fond of pointing out, I am not a football coach, and I fully understand that there may be complicated answers to my simple questions. And as I said, I'm willing to concede the point that the interior pass rush is not something on which the Cowboys should simply give up. But for the sake of Ratliff himself, and for the sake of his ability to help the team as much as possible, there would seem to have to be a better solution than "keep him at the nose and just don't play him as much once he starts getting hurt." No?

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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