Youth, Talent Runs Deep On D-Line Nick Eatman DallasCowbys.com Staff Writer July 15 2004, 6:53 p.m. (CDT) (Editor's Note: This is the fourth of a 10-part series, DallasCowboys.com 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) FITTING IN 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.