Friday, July 8, 2011
Three 3-4 linemen
By Dan Graziano
The latest grades handed out over at Pro Football Focus are for 3-4 defensive linemen, and there are three players on the list of interest to the Cowboys and Redskins, the two NFC East teams that run 3-4 defenses. One is a Cowboy. The other two are free agents. These are their stories:
Jay Ratliff. PFF ranked the Cowboys' nose tackle the No. 1 nose tackle in the league over the past three seasons, but the first thing it said about him in its summary was that he was "a little overrated." It seems his overall grade, which put him a notch ahead of New England's Vince Wilfork, was helped tremendously by the great season he had in 2008, and the graders believe he hasn't been as good in the two years since. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has said he plans to keep Ratliff at the nose, rather than move him to defensive end, and the Cowboys' hope is that they can get him back to playing the way he did in '08.
Cullen Jenkins. Came in at No. 3 on the list of 3-4 defensive ends and is a free agent of great interest to both the Cowboys and the Redskins (as well, potentially, as the Eagles, since he has 4-3 experience too). Jenkins is a pass-rushing end, and putting him on the line in front of someone like Brian Orakpo or DeMarcus Ware (with Ryan Kerrigan or Anthony Spencer coming from the other outside linebacker spot) could create serious matchup problems for the passing offenses in the NFC East. The Cowboys and Redskins each will be looking for at least one new defensive end, and Jenkins is at or near the top of their wish lists.
Aubrayo Franklin. Ranked No. 5 on the nose tackle list, Franklin is known as a great run defender but not much against the pass. The Redskins need to find a nose tackle, and if Franklin's their guy they could go get space-eating ends and just trust the outside linebackers to handle the pass rush. It's hard to imagine they could get both Franklin and Jenkins, but if the budget has room and they could convince both guys to come, that'd be the kind of coup that could vault Washington's defense to the top of the division. Assuming they have any money left over to sign the cornerback they need, that is.