At one point, defensive tackle was one position that the Dallas Cowboys didn’t have to be concerned with. The Dallas coaching staff knew that Jay Ratliff was going to be on the field and he was going to dominate the opposing interior offensive line. For the past two seasons, however, the Cowboys’ front office has to be wondering if Ratliff is nearing the end of the line. Last year, he saw minimal playing time during the season. In his absence, Josh Brent took over at defensive tackle until he was involved in a horrific automobile accident that killed his friend and teammate Jerry Brown.
With Ratliff still injured, the Cowboys brought in former Cincinnati Bengal, Nick Hayden. When I first saw Hayden on the field, I didn’t know too much about him. I actually thought the Cowboys brought him in just to fill up spots for training camp. But after watching Hayden through the first three preseason games, I think he is stepping in nicely in Ratliff’s absence. Hayden is proving that he has the ability to penetrate the line and get pressure in the quarterback’s face, something that Monte Kiffin’s defense relies heavily on.
If Ratliff cannot get healthy, I think Hayden can step up and get the job done. If Hayden can consistently play at a high level, I think he will remain on this team for a long time. This may be so since both defensive tackles, Ratliff and Jason Hatcher, are getting older and nearing the end of their contracts. I’m excited to see how Hayden does this Saturday against his former team.
Pete Osmolia is a Dallas Cowboys writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @posmolia and like him on Facebook.