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March 11, 2014

Pressure on the Cowboys to draft well along the defensive line

The Cowboys played 20 defensive linemen last season. That tells you all you want to know about what went wrong with the Cowboys defense, which was the worst in team history statistically, and helps explain why they finished 8-8.

But Dallas, which had only 34 sacks last season, is even worse along the defensive line now than it was last season after releasing DeMarcus Ware on Tuesday.

The Cowboys also could lose three-technique Jason Hatcher, the best player on their defensive line last season and their sacks leader with 11, though their chances of keeping him went up with Ware's release. Defensive end Anthony Spencer, who played only 34 snaps last season before having microfracture surgery on his knee, also could find more money elsewhere.

That leaves George Selvie, who wasn't even signed until July 26, after training camp already had started, as the best pass-rusher left on the roster at the moment.

The Cowboys will get Tyrone Crawford back. Big things were expected from Crawford in his second season before he tore his Achilles' early in training camp.

But the Cowboys' focus in both free agency and in the draft will be on the defensive line. Aaron Donald, a three-technique from the University of Pittsburgh, has been a favorite for the Cowboys in early mock drafts.

It was not a great free agent market for defensive ends anyway, and several, including Michael Bennett, Lamarr Houston, Michael Johnson, Justin Tuck, Everson Griffen and Tyson Jackson, already are off the market with new deals. Willie Young is visiting Jacksonville and could soon have a new home.

The Cowboys will have to get some low-cost finds, like they did with Selvie last season, and draft well to fill their huge holes in the defensive line.

-- Charean Williams





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