The Dallas Cowboys placed defensive tackle Jay Ratliff on the NFL‘s relatively new Reserve/PUP list, which means he’ll be out for at least the first six weeks of the upcoming season. Ratliff has battled a lingering hamstring strain that kept him on the PUP list for the entirety of training camp and throughout the preseason, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insisted the eight-year veteran would be ready for the season opener. Now that it’s official Ratliff won’t be ready, Dallas can further evaluate some younger players on the defensive line.
Put simply, Dallas’ defense has looked good this preseason without Ratliff. One would expect that to mean big playing time and the chance to break out for Sean Lissemore, but the young up-and-comer virtually lost the starting job to Nick Hayden in part because of a groin injury. Now with Ratliff out for the foreseeable future, Hayden is in line to start for the Cowboys this year after missing all of the 2012 season with an ankle injury.
Hayden was never a star for the Carolina Panthers in his three partial seasons with the team, but he’s managed to stay around long enough to earn a job in Dallas. Of course, that’s not to say Lissemore is out of the picture; the 2010 seventh-round draft pick received a five-year contract extension last September, so he’ll be around for the long haul and the Cowboys expect him to play a big role on defense.
Dallas also has roster hopefuls Jerome Long and Ben Bass vying for jobs and playing time, so Ratliff’s extended absence could mean more opportunities for those players as well. Regardless, Ratliff being out isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the Cowboys’ defense has been solid during the preseason without him and regular season experience is certainly a plus for these youngsters.