As the Dallas Cowboys enter the 2013 NFL season with a new defensive coordinator and subsequent new scheme, it is no secret that they’ll have to get to the passer better than they have in years past. DeMarcus Ware, their star outside linebacker, has seemed to carry the pass rushing load the last few seasons as Jay Ratliff has been injured, and Anthony Spencer has been mostly inconsistent — save for a career year, 11 sack campaign in 2012. In their 3-4 scheme under Rob Ryan, the Cowboys barely got penetration with their defensive front, but in their new 4-3 scheme coordinated by Monte Kiffin, that pass rush — with Ware and Spencer playing closer to the line — should greatly improve.
One of the big keys to the 2013 pass rush is 30 year old defensive end turned 4-3 tackle Jason Hatcher, and his recent comments about getting familiar with the system is an encouraging sign for a Cowboys defense that has struggled mightily getting pressure up the middle.
Speaking with dallascowboys.com earlier this week, Hatcher discussed his expectations for the new scheme and what will be required of him and the rest of the defensive front, saying that it’s more about attacking and getting off the ball — rather than reading plays and reacting to those reads. Of particular significance was the comment “the quicker you get off the ball, you cause havoc, you make plays”.
For a Cowboys interior pass rush that has had its struggles, “havoc” is an appropriate word to use in explaining what they need to do.
Of the 34 Cowboys’ sacks in 2012, 22.5 came from the tandem of Ware and Spencer, and three came from former outside linebacker Victor Butler. That makes for a total of 25.5 out of 34, or 75%, coming from three of your outside linebackers. Inside linebacker Ernie Sims added 1, so the defensive line only produced 7.5 sacks last season out of 34. What’s more, 2.5 of those 7.5 belonged to Marcus Spears and Josh Brent, who won’t be with the team this upcoming season. Hatcher accounted for four of those 7.5. It’s safe to say that with now more opportunities to get up field and rush the passer, that number should improve for the Grambling State product.
He already is getting familiar with the scheme, and seems to enjoy what it will bring, so hopefully “havoc” will ensue for not only Hatcher, but for the entire line itself.
The encouraging signs are there, and it would definitely be a welcomed sight.