News: Eatman: Youth & Talent on the D-Line

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by Hostile, Jul 15, 2004.

  1. Hostile

    Hostile The Duke

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    Youth, Talent Runs Deep On D-Line

    Nick Eatman Staff Writer
    July 15 2004, 6:53 p.m. (CDT)

    (Editor's Note: This is the fourth of a 10-part series, analyzing the Cowboys position-by-position as they begin final preparations for the July 31 start to training camp. Today will feature the defensive line.)

    IRVING, Texas -- In the three seasons preceding head coach Bill Parcells' arrival, the Cowboys' sack totals were 25, 24 and 24.

    Last season, the Cowboys improved to 32 sacks, but still that was only good enough to tie New Orleans for 21st in the NFL

    Obviously, increasing pressure on opposing quarterbacks had to be an off-season goal for the Cowboys, and they believe they addressed this need by signing a veteran with a history of sacks.

    Seven-year pro Marcellus Wiley signed a four-year deal in March and virtually replaces Ebenezer Ekuban, who never lived up to the expectations of a first-round pick (1999). Ekuban only recorded 12½ sacks during his Cowboys' career, a nice total for one season, but not five.

    So the Cowboys chose not to re-sign Ekuban this off-season, their former first-round pick eventually signing a free-agent deal with Cleveland, enabling him to reunite with former Cowboys head coach Dave Campo, now the defensive coordinator for the Browns.

    Wiley on the other hand, not only brings 41 career sacks to the Cowboys and experience, but definitely will add some character in the locker room. The always-smiling Wiley knows how to have some fun off the field. And on the field, he said his goal is rather simple.

    "I've got to get to the quarterback," he said. "That's what I've always done. Get to the quarterback and make plays. It's my job to make (the pass rusher) better. It's my job to pick up where things left off last year. I know we've got some talented players around me, and that's exciting. That's one of the reasons I chose to come here, to play with some of the best defensive players in the game, all right here."

    And having talented players around him isn't exactly the norm for Wiley, who suffered through three dismal seasons in San Diego, having to watch the Chargers let go of several defensive stars, such as linebacker Junior Seau and safety Rodney Harrison.

    And it became Wiley's turn to exit this off-season, the Chargers cutting the defensive end who was scheduled to count roughly $9 million on the salary cap. Wiley had just three sacks in 2003, 10 less than his 2001 total that earned him Pro Bowl honors his first year with the Chargers.

    But with his sacks and the talent around him dropping, Wiley was set free in February, and it wasn't long before he found a new home in Dallas, one with a better supporting cast.

    "When you line up next to guys like La'Roi Glover and Greg Ellis every play, it makes things easier for everyone," Wiley said. "Hopefully, I can make their jobs easier, too. But that's what you've got to do. You've got to have a lot of guys who can make plays for you. It makes it tough to block when you're throwing a bunch of players at you on every play."

    And Wiley could make things a bit easier for Ellis, who will now switch from left defensive end to the right side, where he won't see as many double-teams, although he will have to face left tackles, generally considered the more talented of the two tackles.

    But that's where Ellis wants to be, even though he has led the team in sacks four of the last five years, including a career-high eight last season.

    One player who should still expect double- and sometimes triple-teams is Glover, especially after having earned his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl trip last year as one of the NFC's starting defensive tackles.

    Glover's six-year streak of recording at least 6 � sacks a season was broken last year when he finished with only five. Still, he led the team with 23 quarterback pressures, and obviously those voting for the Pro Bowl saw more in Glover than just an ability to get to the quarterback.

    The Cowboys are counting on Glover getting some help inside at the other tackle position, although it's too early to tell just who that help will come from.

    It might be Leonardo Carson, who had to spend eight days in jail this summer after pleading guilty to trespassing and unlawful imprisonment. Carson got involved in a domestic dispute last summer when he was with the Chargers. Carson was originally sentenced to 30 days in jail, but was allowed to return to the Cowboys to rehab from off-season knee surgery and get his body ready for training camp.

    In just eight games last year Carson had 21 tackles and 1½ sacks before suffering a torn triceps, which required season-ending surgery in December.

    The Cowboys also are counting on big years from Daleroy Stewart and Jermaine Brooks, who showed some promise when he was moved up from the practice squad at the end of last season. So even though Willie Blade started the last 15 games at tackle last year, he could have a tough time retaining his spot.

    Blade did a good job of resurrecting his career last summer, not only losing weight and making the 53-man roster, but to start alongside Glover for nearly the entire season. Still though, Blade's play seemed to drag along as the year wore on, finishing with only 18 tackles and one sack.

    Blades starting spot, if not his roster spot, could be in jeopardy if he doesn't stay hungry and compete with the same fire he had a year ago.

    While the Cowboys could have plenty of depth at tackle, they also have experience at end behind Ellis and Wiley.

    Eric Ogbogu finished third on the team with 3½ sacks last year, and the Cowboys re-signed him to a three-year deal before the end of the season. Ogbogu and Kenyon Coleman, acquired in a trade with Oakland last September for two draft choices, round out the four-man rotation at end.

    The Cowboys also added a few rookie linemen after the draft, and there is a possibility you might hear from a few of them. Kevin Emanuel (Florida State), Cedric Hilliard (Notre Dame) and Darrell Lee (Florida) are all considered long shots, but all come from big-time college programs.

    (Next: Offensive Line)


    Defensive Ends:

    Greg Ellis: Moves to the right side this year where he won't miss those constant double-teams. Ellis could be in line to lead the team in sacks for the fifth time in six years.

    Marcellus Wiley: His numbers have declined the last two years in San Diego, but his supporting cast has been upgraded in Dallas. The Cowboys are hoping Glover and Ellis allow Wiley to shine.

    Eric Ogbogu: Joined the Cowboys in training camp last summer and proved to be a worthy find. Had 3 ½ sacks and turned into a solid pass rusher on third downs.

    Kenyon Coleman: The Cowboys were hoping for a little more production after giving up two draft picks to the Raiders for Coleman. The biggest end on the team, the pressure will be on to produce this year, especially against the run.

    Ryan Wingrove: Not a rookie, but doesn't have much experience. Joined the Cowboys at the end of the season. A bit undersized, but Parcells likes to keep smaller ends if they can play on special teams.

    Darrell Lee: Rookie free agent from Florida will have to make up ground quickly. Showed some flashes during mini-camp, but let's see what happens when the pads come on.

    Kevin Emanuel: Ditto for Emanuel, who also comes from a big-time football program, Won't get many plays in preseason games, so will have to make the most of them.

    Defensive Tackles:

    La'Roi Glover: Looking for his fifth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl. Glover had only five sacks last year, but if Wiley can improve the pass rush on the outside, the middle could open up.

    Willie Blade: Was the surprise of training camp last year, not only making the team but starting. But it's a new year and Blade will have to prove himself all over again. It could be a tough road to repeat.

    Daleroy Stewart: Parcells said he's ready to take the next step. So expect Stewart to get plenty of chances to either start next to Glover, or at least be in the rotation. Has played end, so has a good first step.

    Shaun Smith: Never made it off the practice squad last year, but clearly the Cowboys liked him enough to keep him around. Ideal nose tackle, and looks hungry.

    Cedric Hilliard: Rookie free agent from Notre Dame might have a tough time finding playing time, much less making the team. He finds himself behind several young players with more experience than him.

    Leonardo Carson: If he recovers from knee surgery, which he should, and puts his off-the-field issues behind him, the Cowboys might have found a steal. More productive than Blade and Stewart last year in half the games.

    Jermaine Brooks: Like Carson, the Cowboys gave him a second chance from off-the-field problems. If he stays humble and plays like he did at the end of last year, he will be hard not to keep around.
  2. Marcuz

    Marcuz Member

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    It's amazing how much better a defensive line looks without Ekuban in it. Ekuban ascended to a level of mediocrity that may never be reached again.

    Wiley's form has dipped the last couple of years but as the article states he is surrounded by more talent than he ever has been. He will make a difference and make the league's best defence even more dangerous.
  3. Duane

    Duane Well-Known Member

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    Couldn't agree more on Ekuban and welcome to the forum.
  4. nathanlt

    nathanlt Well-Known Member

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    Ekuban had delusions of adequacy...
  5. Hostile

    Hostile The Duke

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    That is a great first post. Welcome to the forum. Hope you enjoy it here and post a lot more.

    G'day Mate.
  6. Marcuz

    Marcuz Member

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    Cheers Hostile.

    As an NFL and more to the point Cowboys fan living in Australia it's good to finally find a place to talk football. And like an infatuated girlfriend i won't be going away anytime soon. ;)
  7. big dog cowboy

    big dog cowboy THE BIG DOG Staff Member

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    Man I am glad we are finally rid of the worthless Ekubust.

    I will kind of miss railing on him every week. :)
  8. Sarge

    Sarge Red, White and brew... Staff Member

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    Ekuban never made it, but let's not forget - he had a rather serious back surgery that IMO, he never recovered from.

    I don't think we ever saw his ultimate potential.

    That said, I'm glad that era is over.
  9. dmq

    dmq If I'm so pretty, why am I available?

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    I was gonna say the same thing about Ekuban and his back. I really thought he looked the part of a star before the injury. It is amazing how much more depth we have on the line since Parcells got here. Lets just hope even half of these guys pan out. I can't wait to see sacks that aren't coverage sacks out of this team. I am expecting good things out of Stewart.
  10. Bluefin

    Bluefin Well-Known Member

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    Gregory will at least be as staedy on the right side as he was on the left, but we'll have to see if he can excel at his college spot.

    Ellis isn't as limited in his pass rush moves as Ekuban was, but I'm unsure if he has the kind of closing burst needed for the spot.

    Wiley should be pumped in his new surroundings and he's a bit of an odd ball to start with.

    I know Wiley will improve the pass rush, my only question is how he will handle the run on the strongside?

    La'Roi Glover showed everyone he could play the run just fine after the Saints labeled him a one dimensional player, so there's no reason Wiley shouldn't be up to the challenge.

    If necessary, Dallas could always flip Ellis back over to the strongisde, so it shouldn't be much of a concern to the staff or the fanbase.

    Oggie is a high motor playerand a nice option to have coming in off the bench.

    The darkhorse on the line.

    Coleman had a nice off-season and will be much better prepared to handle playing the strongside in his second year with the Cowboys.

    I hope Coleman eventually gets "it" the way Daleroy Stewart did this spring and summer according to Parcells.
  11. Hollywood Henderson

    Hollywood Henderson Benched

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    Good insightful post as always Bluefin.

    I also question whether Ellis has the burst of true speed to be a great passrusher from the right side of the D...

    I question that we are finally giving Ellis his shot there when Wiley might have been the best passrusher we have had in some time anyway there since Haley...

    I also question our D coaches who can't develop a player at DE...Or CB...

    Will our passrush improve while the run D gets worse?

    I also though Eb was on the verge of becoming a weapon when he injured his back,,,But fickle fans don't seem to know the inpact of injury's to players it seems...Or Novacek, Haley, Lafluer, Irvin would still be playing perhaps...
  12. Bluefin

    Bluefin Well-Known Member

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    That's one of those things that can only be answered on the field.

    I've watched Ellis give some left tackles fits in limited snaps on the right side in the past, but it was more with moves than an outside burst.

    I was surprised when the news broke about the switch, Ellis watches a lot of film on Michael Strahan and tries to pattern his game after the Giant.

    The style seems like a better fit on the strongside, but maybe Ellis will prove an effective bullrusher against left tackles accustomed to outside speed.

    I'm still hoping to see Ellis and Wiley rotate to each side depending on match-ups and just to keep offenses off guard.

    I carry a phobia of drafting first round defensive ends to this day.

    As for corners, things look brighter with Newman entrenched and Hunter likely to be ready for a starting role.

    Problem is, a team can never have enough corners.

    No chance, Hollywood.

    Mike Zimmer is all about one thing, run defense.

    No defense he coaches will ever get away with ignoring their run responsibilities to chase quarterbacks.

    Eb flashed potential as a rookie and was really hurt in his second year when the team moved Ellis to the right side to protect his leg and forced Ekuban to the strongside.

    He wasn't ready.

    Then came the back injury in year three.

    I do agree that the injury may have held Eb back on the field, but he also didn't possess good instincts for the position, was overly reliant on his outside move and was just too nice a guy.

    I'm a big Tar Heel football fan, so Eb not making the grade was double tough on me.
  13. Cheap Shot Artist

    Cheap Shot Artist Benched

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    Talk about reversals of fortune...

    Stewart BARELY made the team last year and Willie Blade emerged as a starter

    Smith is the "ideal" NT and "looks hungry"

    I havent heard a thing about Blade this offseason and that irks me.

    SO, Lets say Stewart cracks the starting line up

    Smith makes the team as a reserve...

    That means Blade could very well end up fighting for a roster spot vs Brooks and Carson..

    Talk about from the Penthouse to the outhouse
  14. Bluefin

    Bluefin Well-Known Member

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    Bill Parcells did briefly mention Willie Blade during one of his mini-camp press conferences and praised his off-season work.

    But it was very brief, almost an aside while continually praising Daleroy Stewart for his outstanding off-season.

    Perhaps it's nothing more than Parcells' way of letting Blade know not to sit back and think he's on easy street after finally playing some football for Dallas.

    And I still haven't read that Stewy will be allowed to challenge for time at NT, he played behind Glover at UT last year and Parcells wants to reduce Glover's snap count.

    It isn't easy to see who's going to play at each spot.

    Anything's possible with so much depth and talent of the defensive line.

    However, I believe Smith will again be the off man out as long as Blade doesn't rest on his laurels.

    I see the Cowboys keeping five tackles and having possibly the best rotation in all of football.

    La'Roi Glover - Sack totals have dropped as Glover showed he was a complete defender in Zimmer's scheme. The idea of reducing his snap count will keep Glover fresh and hopefully allow for more big plays.

    Willie Blade - Started off hot and faded down the stretch ater hitting the rookie wall. Blade hadn't played a single down of football his first two years in the league and should have more stamina this year.

    Daleroy Stewart - Has received a lot of cheese from Parcells this off-season for getting "it" and looking like a new player. Stewy, an identicle story to Blade, also faded down the stretch after sitting out his first two years with the Cowboys. Parcells is obviously expecting big things from him.

    Leonardo Carson - Late season addition brings more of a pass rush than his younger counterparts. Needs to put off-field problems behind him and was granted an early release from the slammer to rehab injuries under the Cowboys care. Carson should be even more effective after his off-season and gaining a better understanding of the system.

    Jermaine Brooks - Another player given a chance by Dallas despite off-field concerns. Brooks is an undersized penetrator in the same mold as Glover and the team is hoping to see results after a solid off-season.

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