The Dallas Cowboys believe one of the strengths of their team is the defensive line, and part of that belief comes from one of their core players along the defensive line for the past nine years. Jay Ratliff has been a really good player for the Cowboys and even though injuries robbed him of playing at a high level in 2012, there is plenty of reason to believe Ratliff can be better in 2013.
Ratliff endured constant double teams in the 3-4 alignment and although he didn’t have the prototypical size for a 3-4 nose tackle, he was elected to the Pro Bowl four times. Those battles left Ratliff worn down in the past two seasons but that all should change in 2013. Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defensive alignment allows for much more one-on-one match-ups and Ratliff’s speed and power should allow him to dominate. The Cowboys also have a capable group of back-up defensive tackles who will be able to give Ratliff more rest during games this season.
Not to diminish what Ratliff accomplished in his time during with the Cowboys in the 3-4 but he is a much better fit in the 4-3 alignment. He’s got the size and athleticism to beat offensive linemen and his speed off the ball should allow him to live in the opponent’s backfield.
Looking forward to the 2013 season however, the league office could take Ratliff off the field and suspend him for his arrest on suspicion of drunk driving. Ratliff was arrested in January and the NFL has regularly suspended players for similar infractions in the past so the Cowboys should plan to be without him for a few games this season.
Jay Ratliff is a big part of the reason the Cowboys felt they had the players to convert to a 4-3 defense this offseason. His body has taken a beating fighting off double teams throughout his career but he has the skills to flourish in the Tampa 2 scheme.