Jay Ratliff has been a warrior for the Dallas Cowboys over the years, and has arguably been one of the Cowboys' top defensive players in what have been some lean defensive years, falling in line behind DeMarcus Ware and maybe no one else.
People like Larry Lacewell think Monte Kiffin's new 4-3, Tampa 2 defensive scheme could prolong Ratliff's career, and on the surface that makes sense. After all, Ratliff, who will be 32 years old when the 2013 season begins, was drafted as a defensive end before the Cowboys shifted to a 3-4 scheme and was subsequently shifted inside to nose tackle — surely one of the smaller nose tackles in the league.
Others like 1310-AM The Ticket's Norm Hitzges and The Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin think Ratliff's time as a valuable player could be coming to an end, and Kiffin's new scheme isn't going to help matters.
Ratliff will likely be expected to shift to defensive tackle, which in one regard is good for him because he'll have someone else to help absorb some of the blows in the middle of the trenches. But looking back at the defenses that made Kiffin famous in Tampa Bay, he had two huge mountains of men in Warren Sapp and Booger McFarland manning those defensive tackle spots — both well over 300 pounds.
Ratliff is under 300 pounds, and the Cowboys just aren't very big up front. On the ends, it's even worse with DeMarcus Ware and possibly Anthony Spencer set to be the team's defensive ends with a hand on the ground. They're both undersized, as well.
With the Cowboys' dire need to draft some offensive line help, they might not be able to draft some big boys up front to take some of the heat off guys like Ratliff, who is on the downside of his career. After all, Ratliff is coming off a 2012 season which only saw him play in six games due to injuries. Don't expect 16 games from him in 2013.