LM Otero/Associated Press
The position that was hit the most in free agency was easily the defensive line. The Cowboys lost two starters and star players in DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher. They have tried to replace Ware with a combination Jeremy Mincey, a free-agent signing, and 2014 second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence. And Dallas signed former Chicago Bear Henry Melton to replace Hatcher.
At this point, it is impossible to say the Cowboys have improved the line. Mincey has been a solid rotational player at best, Lawrence is a rookie and it's hard to expect anything from a rookie pass-rusher and Melton is coming off of a torn ACL. It is unclear how much impact he will make in 2014 coming off that significant of an injury.
With all that said, the Cowboys have much better reserves this season, and even though they haven't improved individually along the defensive front, a new philosophy may be the key to a more productive season.
Last year, the Cowboys relied heavily on the starters, but this year, there should be much greater use of a rotation, similar to the approach of the Seattle Seahawks. This means the Cowboys will likely use an eight- or nine-man rotation to keep players fresh and allow them to play at their highest ability on every snap.
The question going into training camp is how many defensive linemen the Cowboys will keep and which eight or nine players will compose the rotation. The locks to make the squad appear to be Melton, Tyrone Crawford, George Selvie, Lawrence, Mincey and Terrell McClain. After that, players like Nick Hayden, Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman, Ben Gardner, Ben Bass and Martez Wilson will battle it out at their respective positions for the last three or four spots on the line.
The Cowboys have dramatically improved the depth along the defensive line this offseason; however it is yet to be seen whether there is enough quality at the top for the unit to be an improved one.
Therefore, the question will be whether the quantity of adequate players can compensate for the absence of elite players at the top of the defensive line depth chart.