Cowboys Camp Preview: Defensive Line

We look at the big men up front in our latest installment of the 2009 training camp preview.

The only major change on the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line will be the absence of Chris Canty, who departed Dallas for New York.
 
Canty, according to numerous reports afterwards, was an invaluable cog in Dallas’ defense, one whose departure would deal a harrowing blow to the unit. One report even called him the defense’s “unsung hero.”
 

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This seems to be revisionist history.
 
Canty was good in Dallas, but not good enough to warrant the kind of payday he got from the New York Football Giants. Of this, I am fairly certain.
 
Igor Olshansky, who will replace Canty on the line, has numbers fairly comparable to the new New York Giant; and, unlike Canty, Olshansky is comfortable in the Phillips 3-4. He played in the system for the first three seasons of his career.
 
Marcus Spears will return in the opposite end spot, a position into which he has grown, albeit painstakingly at times, over his first five seasons in the league. Spears has the ability to tie up a lot of bodies in the interior, and he has developed into a solid run-stopper, but his pass-rushing has never become what Dallas though it would be when they drafted him in the first round in 2004.
 
Hopefully, the presence of linemate Jay Ratliff (and that Ware guy behind him) will alleviate any concern for Dallas, while compounding the concerns of opposing quarterbacks.
 
Ratliff recorded 7.5 sacks in 2008, a monster number for a nose tackle, good enough to earn a Pro Bowl nod. He is quickly looking like one of the great steals of the 2005 draft, in which he was drafted in the seventh round by Dallas, 224th overall.
 
If the unit has an issue going into training camp, it is depth.
 
Junior Siavii, a second round pick in 2004 who hasn’t played in a regular-season game in three years, will likely serve as Ratliff’s backup.
 
Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher both figure to come back and make a push as backup ends. A possible incentive for the two, both of which have shown promise in the past, is the fact that Spears is in the last year of his contract.
 
On paper, the group was slightly deeper a year ago than they are now, although the talent up front that helped Dallas to lead the NFL in sacks in 2008 remains largely in place.
 
Training camp kicks off Tuesday July, 28 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
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