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By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Battles, Part II: Kenyon Coleman vs. Jason Hatcher vs. Igor Olshansky

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Jonathan Bales

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% 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

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9 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Battles, Part II: Kenyon Coleman vs. Jason Hatcher vs. Igor Olshansky

  1. Rick says:

    The beat writers are thinking Olshansky will be cut. What’s the good in a worse version of Spears and Coleman that happens to be paid more than either of them? Lissemore and Geathers are also much cheaper than him, possess more upside, and fit better as sub-rushers behind the starters.

  2. john coleman says:

    Two words fit- Surprised and disappointed.
    I’m both surprised and disappointed if Olshansky even makes the team. I would trade him for any offer. If no offer is available, then I would cut him outright.

    I view Olshansky as a progress stopper. Two years ago he was an unmoveable force. Last year he was atrocious and simply a nonfactor concerning production. After watching the Broncos game, It seems he is actually worse than last year. So make way for Lissemore and Geathers. Both have beast potential and Geathers is huge.

    As far as DE signings- I believe Rob Ryan had told JJ, SJ, and JG that he thought we had sufficient talent. He probably asked for one or two of the three(Hatcher, Spears, and Bowen). I’m betting Spears was the guy he wanted the most. Let me say that losing Bowen is of no concern to me at all. Rob has been around long enough to know how the “Business” side works and understood the situation.

    We did go out and get a productive player in Coleman, who is also a coach on the field. I think it was very wise to bring in both he and Elam. I am also pleased to see that we have not handed out any absurd money.

    Bottomline- Coleman and Spears starting with a rotation of Hatcher, Lissemore and Geathers looks pretty good to me. Throw in Ratliff moving all over and Brent in the middle and I see no issues. I also see Spears, Lissemore and Geathers as being able to play some snaps at NT in this D.

  3. JJ says:

    Even mentioning Igor as an option makes this an easy call.

    Frankly, I wish Jerry would invoke a “Take your junk and give me a do over” clause when he hires a coach. The Cowboys gave Parcells a ton of money and Phillips a great opportunity.

    Now, we should say to Tuna, you left the Cowboys with the likes of Bobby Carpenter…take him off our hands and give us someone we want from the Dolphins.

    Same for Igor…he reminds me of Phillips…just blah. Phillips should have the Texans trade for him just out of sheer graciousness for the 09 draft, starting Alan Ball at FS and bringing in Igor.

  4. Greg says:

    I think this might be the turning point for Hatcher. Rob Ryan has a fluid and speedy defense that puts lightning bolts in the best positions to strike. I remember when Parcells was asked about Hatcher and why this “unknown” was drafted so high, he said “He’s 290 lbs and runs a 4.6/40, what more can I say?” Hatcher is a fast and dexterous athlete so having him clog a side or act as a lane plugger is not making use of his talent. He needs to be in space, dislodged from the yoke of being a walking wall and throwing his mass into full acceleration. Remember when Parcells used to yell at Keyshawn “You are not a gazelle, you are a giraffe”; well I think Rob Ryan just found that Hatcher is not brontosaurus, he is a velociraptor.

  5. Vince_Grey says:

    The way Olshansky played last year and is playing now, I simply can’t believe that the Cowboys would keep him on the roster. Why? For what reason? Are we to believe that Dallas can’t sign someone off the waiver wire AT LEAST as “good” as Igor, who’s likely younger, cheaper and with more upside? I don’t buy that for a second.

    Now, I will say this much for JJ’s sake: Igor did play some darn good football in 2009, so it’s not like he was a complete bust like Carpenter.

    Bobby Carpenter, who shall forever more be known in my book as “Big Tuna’s finesse linebacker”. Bwhahaha!

    You have to laugh sometimes to keep from screaming obscenities.

  6. Rick says:

    Not really fair to rag on Parcells and Phillips. Tuna made some blunders, but we still have Ware, Witten, Newman, Spears, Ratliff, James, Austin, Romo, and Kosier as starters from when he was head coach. That’s a lot for a guy that left in 2007. Phillips, yeah, the drafting was pretty bad, but a lot of that falls on Jerry.

  7. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Igor is no longer any good.

    He’s been put on the 2nd team and it seems like it a slow progression to him being cut. Give JG and JJ some time but I think they’ll do in time what seems obvious to all of us. In fact, they’ll do it w/ some class.

    The front office and coaching is looking like it’s got an upward vector…

  8. JJ says:

    It will be interesting to see what types of players Garrett will be known to develop/bring in.

    Garrett seems to desire talent coupled with a hunger/love for the game. While I’m hopeful for a great Super Bowl season, I must say that watching Garrett mold this team is intriguing in itself. Who the Cowboys cut and pick up before and after week 1 will be very interesting.

  9. Vince_Grey says:

    JJ – Jerry could help a lot by not being so buddy-buddy and needlessly over-generous with the players. That’s been a significant issue at times ever since Jimmy left. It’s tough for any HC to put the hammer down when many of these guys know they have JJ backing them if push came to shove.

    Very few players are hard-working self-starter types like Irvin and Aikman were. Even Emmitt could be lazy (Off the field anyway). As a HC, you have to put the fear of God into most of these guys or they’ll slack off at every opportunity.

    That’s true for most people in any work environment, much less a physically punishing game where 20-somethings are millionaires and have gorgeous women throwing themselves at them all the time.

    Tough to focus on just football and getting better in that atmosphere.

    Getting the RKG helps a lot, but knowing the HC won’t put up with any crap helps even more.

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