Click here to read Part I of the “Training Camp Battles” Series.
I was rather shocked when the Cowboys failed to secure a rookie or high-profile defensive end this offseason. The ‘Boys did bring in Kenyon Coleman from Cleveland, and his numbers against the run were far superior to those of the Dallas defensive ends in 2010.
You can read why I think that was the case in my article on if the defensive ends can generate enough pressure in 2011.
After letting Stephen Bowen walk in free agency, the Cowboys are currently left with Coleman and Marcus Spears currently starting at defensive end (Coleman replaced Igor Olshansky on the first team yesterday), with Jason Hatcher and Olshansky on the second team. Clifton Geathers and Sean Lissemore round out the position.
As of now, it looks as though either Coleman or Olshansky will be starting in 2011. It is very possible that Coleman simply got the nod this week because he is more familiar with Rob Ryan’s defense and just to get some time with the ones.
If Olshansky does regain his starting gig, it will be tragic. Olshansky has shown to be awful against the pass and, despite being known as a “run stopper,” rather mediocre against the run as well.
In my 2010 Defensive End Grades, I gave Olshansky a 70.2 percent overall grade. He secured the worst sack and hit rates of any defensive end on the team. Actually, Olshanksy failed to record a sack during any of his team-leading 574 snaps.
In my grades, I had the following analysis of Olshansky’s 2010 play:
Run Defense: C
You wouldn’t know it from all of his celebrations, but Olshansky took a big step backwards in 2010. His tackle rate was way down from 2009 and he simply wasn’t in on a lot of plays.
Olshansky’s average play against the run means this “run-stuffing specialist” needs to be out of Dallas next season.Pass Defense: D-
Olshansky was never incredible as a pass-rusher, but his inability to generate any sort of pressure makes it way too easy for the opposition to pass on first down. Zero sacks in 574 snaps is debilitating to a defense.
Now, it wasn’t as if Hatcher was lighting it up either. You can see had only two sacks, two hits, and a pressure rate that was barely better than Olshansky’s. That is particularly poor news because Hatcher played more snaps against the pass than Olshansky.
Still, I think we can all agree that Hatcher undoubtedly offers more upside than Olshansky as a pass rusher. With NFL teams passing more and more on early downs and Rob Ryan allowing the defensive ends to freelance more this season, Hatcher seems like the logical choice to start over both Olshansky and Coleman.
But why not Coleman? He had 54 tackles in Ryan’s scheme last season and a 9.5% tackle rate. The problem with starting Coleman is that a similar player is already playing on the opposite side of the line in Spears.
If the ‘Boys fail to stop the run as they did in their preseason opener, however, that might be the defense’s only option.
If Olshansky is still on the team by the start of the regular season, why not give him some snaps at nose tackle? His lack of pass rush skills would be less of a liability inside, and it would allow Jay Ratliff to give the defensive end position a much needed boost.
Also don’t rule out Geathers receiving some snaps this year. He’s a talented player who is having a solid preseason, and he could be a contributor if someone ahead of him goes down.
In the end, though, I expect the defensive end snap breakdown to go something like this (assuming the defensive ends play a total of 1,700 snaps):
- Marcus Spears: 600
- Kenyon Coleman: 400
- Jason Hatcher: 400
- Igor Olshansky: 300