Last week we touched on the two position groups that are in need of huge upgrades next season. This edition of positional rankings we are going to be focusing on defensive line and the linebacker groups. With Monte Kiffin taking over this defense and changing the scheme to the 4-3, these groups will need to revamped.
One noticeable change forthcoming this season will be DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer putting their hand on the ground every down as defensive ends. Both players played predominately from the outside linebacker position, however at their respective universities they played as 4-3 ends. Not to mention the tackle position will also have a different look.
Jay Ratliff will be on the line as one of the tackles, but who will be lined up next to him? Josh Brent is unlikely to be back next season, as he is dealing with the aftermath of his DUI manslaughter case. Tyrone Crawford and Sean Lissemore could be in the rotation, but many scouts and draft analysts have this as a primary need for the upcoming draft.
Outside of the two linebackers converting to defensive end, there was little to no production of the rest of the unit. Victor Butler and Marcus Spears are no longer part of this team but there are plenty of potential players that could make an impact. Quanterus Smith of Western Kentucky is one name to pay attention to; he isn’t a player that will be selected on day one of the draft. He is most likely a third day guy according to Todd McShay of ESPN.
Smith is a player who can add depth to a bleak defensive end position outside of Ware and Spencer. Defensive tackle however is most likely to get early round attention. If Sheldon Richardson of Missouri or Sharrif Floyd of Florida are still available at 18, expect Jerry Jones to give them a long look. Either would be a great compliment to Ratliff.
Linebacker which was once the strength of this defense now seems to weakness in Dallas. The two outside pass rushers are moving up to defensive end and there can only be one middle linebacker. It should come as no surprise that Sean Lee will be that guy. Bruce Carter will command either outside positions, with a focus more on stopping the run and dropping into coverage than rushing the passer.
News broke yesterday that Ernie Sims had re-signed with the team, which is great news for his experience and depth to middle linebacker. Kyle Wilber and Alex Albright will be competing for the linebacker position opposite of Carter. Most likely with any rookie free agents that are signed or a later round draft pick like Zavier Gooden of Missouri.
There is still the chance of free agents to come into the mix prior to the NFL Draft; however that will depend on if Jones can negotiate deals for Romo and Spencer. Spencer is due to make $10.6 million this season with getting the franchise tag, so his deal is the higher priority. However Romo is more likely to get an extension which will help this team’s financials exponentially.