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Cowboys Defensive Line Rotation – Return of the Jimmie Johnson Wave

The 2014 Cowboys defensive line rotation is not one of the key aspects of the 2014 season, it’s the key aspect. Losing Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, Hatcher then DeMarcus Ware has ensured the Cowboys defensive line will have a new look. Understatement aside, we project four players that did not play a down for the Cowboys last year to lead the charge. All of that is just the setup for the real changes.

The Cowboys should have four new defensive line starters. They will be playing the same scheme, but doing it differently. With the pain of losing a future hall of fame defensive end still fresh it was easy to miss critical statements made by the Cowboys front office in regards to the defensive line rotation that started immediately after the 2014 NFL Draft. Jerry, Stephen and Jason all continue to echo the same sentiment, the Jimmy Johnson wave style rotation along the defensive line is back.

Look at some of the quotes from Jason Garrett in a recent OTA press conference.

“… he had eight legit defensive linemen come at you in waves ..”

“… Jim Jeffcoat with 12 plays a game …”

” .. when you can take guys who were getting 60 snaps and give them 30 and give 15 to guys who were playing 30 … they play so much better ..”

Raf and I have talked about this and agree, it’s not who the starting four are that is the most interesting. It’s who makes the final eight. Let’s look at the starting four.

#1 – Henry Melton – all pro who plays three positions.
#2 – Tyrone Crawford – plays outside or inside with power and speed.
#3- Terrell McClain – plays either tackle spot with power and quickness.
#4 – Demarcus Lawrence – weak side with a big time first step.

There may be an argument about if these four will actually start, but it’s a slam dunk they are in the final eight. McClain is getting time at the 3T as well and is NOT considered a NT only player. This means Demarcus Lawrence is the only guy that is relegated to one spot. These guys are versatile and can play in multiple packages. Look for Lawrence to sit in obvious running situations. Regardless, we have them as starters. Now let’s look at filling the final four spots.

#5 – George Selvie can backup both defensive line spots but plays better from the weak side. It’s probable that he gets more snaps than Lawrence regardless of starting status.
#6 – Ben Bass can play up and down the line. He is abrupt, powerful and a difference maker. Once the games start, you will hear his name.
#7 – Jeremy Mincey is George Selvie v2.0. He is a player built for the Marinelli system.
#8 – Unknown

Ed Note: Spencer is not included in the conversation due to the uncertainty of recovery from his injury.

In truth, one can argue the final two spots are up for grabs as Mincey is predicted to shine in this defense but hasn’t shown up like McClain has in OTA’s. That means that Nick Hayden, Ben Gardner, Ken Bishop and Davon Coleman all have a shot at cracking the rotation in 2014. Hayden is the solid, blue collar guy who is going to have to hold off the very talented trio of rookies who have looked good so far in OTA’s.

This is a superior job by the staff of creating serious competition within a critical unit of the team. I like Hayden. He fought wars for the Cowboys last year. Tough RKOG who gives his all every snap. However, Hayden is a guy you want to replace on your team with a more talented version. But you want him to get beat by performance, not potential. You don’t want to lose him because you spent a high round pick on a guy that isn’t showing up yet. How you get the most value out of Hayden is letting him do the gladiator thing trying to keep his spot and see if one of the young guns steps up to the challenge. If they don’t, you keep Hayden and find a new group next year.

Eight man rotation. As Raf has mentioned, the Cowboys are not going to replace Ware with Lawrence. They aim to replace him with eight guys. That sounds about right.

What say you Cowboys Nation?

Another Left Coast Cowboys Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Analyst, Editor, Photographer, Writer at SportsTalkLine
Editor, Writer, Podcaster & Photographer for @SportsTalkLine Network. I watch sports, I talk about sports then I write about sports. Catch me on Twitter @StevenVanOver
Steven Van Over





  • Football Mensa

    ” JERRY, Stephen and Jason all continue to echo the same sentiment, the JIMMY JOHNSON wave style rotation along the defensive line is back.” Nothing more fun than watching Jerry be reduced to nothing more than a babbling wanna be. All of Jerry’s winning reference points begin with Jimmy. All of his losing reference points begin with him. And he deserves all the ridicule and mocking that fans can dish.

    • Steven Van Over

      Ouch ….

    • McShrek

      Another indication that even Jerry believes that Jimmy was 95% responsible for the three rings in the 90s…yet many Cowboy fans insist on giving Jerry credit for those when Jerry admits that he was not involved in football operations during those years due to Jimmy’s great foresight in writing that into his contract…..of course that did stop Jerry from meddling and making Jimmy’s life miserable….which is what he did with Bill the minute he signed TO to that contract……..and again three years later he had to eat crow and substantial cap dollars ($9 million to be exact) when releasing TO for his implosion of the locker room.

      PS Love the idea though building from the lines out………..new concept at VR or back to 1989? But this group is light on talent and long on injury and so-so credentials…. defensive versions of.Livins and Bernie, but it is a start in the right diection

    • AustonianAggie

      something you said on another post, about Jay Ratliff lining up as a shaded 1-tech got me thinking about what could of been last year in Dallas. I had assumed Jay would of been a formidable 3-tech — but imagine instead if had remained at the 1-tech, and complimented Jason Hatcher at the 3. A quick, penetrating 1-tech sounds pretty unorthodox. Are their any players on the current roster who could play like that?

  • Ben

    Don’t think keeping 9 is out of the question either

    • AustonianAggie

      I agree! When you consider how laughable keeping 7 would be, and how common injuries are making 8 concerning, I’d take 9. I’d have to look at last years roster to see where I’d go light but I’m looking at back up TEs, the 10th offensive linemen, as places to go light

      • Steven Van Over

        You also have to think we are going to try and fill scout team with some, but how doable that becomes when/if this line gets off to a hot start is debatable. Especially for this year I can see 9. Not carrying two kickers has to help 🙂

  • StillHateTheGiants

    It all seems doable, even plausible, in June.