Cowboys DE DeMarcus Ware followed the money to Denver and no one can really blame him. In this case, I don’t fault Jerry Jones for not paying an aging player with production on decline either. It was probably best for both sides to just part. However I’m sure most Cowboy fans would prefer to have seen Ware retire as a Cowboy. Now there are big shoes to be filled.
DE Anthony Spencer remains unsigned after having knee surgery in the off season. It’s unclear if he will be with the Cowboys but it appears kind of doubtful. It has been reported he is visiting the Giants. It’s also not known how effectively the 30 year old Spencer will play DE in a 4-3 after playing OLB in the 3-4, his entire career.
So the need for Dallas to draft a defensive end becomes one of their greatest areas of concern for certain. If Dallas signs free agent DT Henry Melton, then I think drafting a DE becomes the top priority.
A look at defensive ends in the draft who appear to fit the Cowboys 4-3 defense. Jadeveon Clowney is the top ranked DE in the draft and understandably so. However he will be long gone off the board when Dallas picks at 16, so I have excluded him from the list. Auburn’s Dee Ford is a first round prospect and an impressive looking pass rusher but it’s expected that he will convert to a OLB so I’m excluding him as well.
DE Kony Ealy:
Strengths– Good combination of quickness and strength. A very capable pass rusher from the DE position. A top performer in the 3 cone drill at the combine shows that he possesses excellent feet. Can execute pass rush moves to defeat blockers.
Versatile– Can be moved around the defensive line and athletic enough to adjust quickly.
Weakness– Not a great run defender. Can get pushed and blocked when running the ball at him. Needs to get stronger.
Fit for Dallas:
Good: Ealy would certainly get in the mix right away as a pass rusher off the edge in their 4-3 defense. He would need to develop his run defense but appears to have a lot of upside.
Ealy is expected to be drafted late first round. Certainly a possibility for Dallas at 16. He will also be looked at as an OLB by teams that run a 3-4 defense.
Strengths– Displays excellent quickness and speed. At the combine, a top 40 time among defensive linemen with a 4.63 and also a top performer in the 3 cone drill. That quickness shows up on video and in his productivity as he has the ability to beat offensive tackles on the edge.
Hustles– Plays through the whistle and is a real competitor on the field.
Pedigree– His father Jim was an outstanding defensive lineman for Dallas in the 1980’s. Like to keep him in the Cowboys family.
Weakness– Not a great run defender. Needs to get stronger for sure to play DE in the NFL. Often gets pushed around on run plays. Has a history of injuries in college that can’t be ignored.
Fit for Dallas:
Very good: Have to like his last name and he would help the Cowboys pass rush immediately. Jackson would bring some much needed energy and youth to the Cowboys defensive line. Will need to hit the weight room and develop his run defense. Should become a good team leader.
Jeffcoat is expected to get drafted in the 2nd or possibly 3rd round. He will be considered as an OLB by teams in a 3-4 defense. I think he represents good value as a 3rd round pick but a little bit of a reach perhaps as a 2nd round pick.
Strengths– Ideal size, body, and frame for a 4-3 defensive end at 6-6, 272. Long arms (35″) to hold off would be blockers in fact, possessed the longest arms among all DE prospects. Able to hold his ground against the run and is one of the better run defender DEs in the draft.
Pass rusher– A capable pass rusher with good speed but certainly room for improvement.
Comparison: Martin reminds me of former Dallas Cowboy DE Greg Ellis. Almost exactly the same size and both played at UNC. Ellis was a first round pick and very solid DE for Dallas back when they ran a 4-3 defense.
Weakness– Motor- Can disappear at times in his college play and will need to step it up at the NFL level. Certainly could be stronger and doesn’t play as strong as he looks. Good, but not great, quickness. Pass rush needs some developing.
Fit for Dallas:
Excellent-Martin represents a pure classic 4-3 defensive end. His long frame will stand up against the run and can beat tackles off the edge too. Has tremendous upside as a NFL DE with good coaching. The Dallas defensive line would benefit right away with Martin at DE, and probably for years to come.
A rising prospect that is now considered a 2nd round pick by many. He will be coveted by 4-3 defenses looking for a true defensive end.
If Dallas signs a DT like Melton in free agency, then I think drafting DE Kony Ealy becomes a bigger possibility. Ealy would help the Cowboys pass rush.
As far as overall skill set goes, I favor Kareem Martin who certainly represents the best run defender of the three and he has ideal size for the position. I believe Marinelli can coach up Martin into a better pass rusher.
If Dallas is focused on a pure pass rusher, (and that would be understandable) then Jackson Jeffcoat is the better option. He brings outstanding quickness and I like the intangibles he brings with good hustle and leadership. He represents excellent value as a 3rd round pick but his history of injury can’t be over looked.
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