Talk of Dallas Cowboys stud defensive lineman Jay Ratliff moving from nose tackle to end has been a hot topic for some time now, but it won’t happen. On Monday, Cowboys defensive line coach Brian Baker said Ratliff will stay put in the middle.
However, Ratliff will see a slight change in his role with the team in 2012. After battling a strained muscle near his ribs last season, Ratliff will play fewer snaps on first and second down this year while younger players like Sean Lissemore and Josh Brent handle those early down situations.
“[Ratliff] 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 [down] we’ll save him for third down.”
Ratliff only recorded 2.0 sacks in 2011, the lowest total since his rookie season, but was hindered by the injury, something Baker insists was the cause of his down year.
“Jay got hurt,” Baker said. “Jay was busted up that’s why we had to get him through it.”
In 2012, Baker and Co. plan to make Ratliff a lethal weapon on third downs while resting him on the early downs. This is actually a win-win-win in that the Cowboys get more production out of Ratliff, he’s less prone to injury and the younger players get more reps in games.
Lissemore is a high motor player who would likely start on most other NFL teams and Dallas knows it’s very fortunate to have him as a backup. Brent is also coming along and will likely take huge strides in 2012 with increased playing time.
The Cowboys will have to figure out a new plan at defensive end since Ratliff is staying in the middle, so that means Lissemore still won’t be unleashed this season. If Baker’s plan works and Brent improves like the Cowboys think he will, then Lissemore could be used as trade bait in 2013 if not sooner. Regardless of what happens with either of the three players, it sounds like Baker has a plan.