Cowboys have personnel to move to 4-3

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
5:30
PM ET
The Cowboys are expected to move from a three-man defensive front to a four-man front next season in a 4-3 scheme run by newly hired defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

In 2012, the Cowboys rushed four defenders several times for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and once they fully become a 4-3 defense, they have the personnel to do it.

How the Cowboys produced rushing four defenders last year can be measured in different ways.

NFL quarterbacks completed 66.1 percent of their passes against the Cowboys pass rush while rushing four or fewer defenders according to ESPN's Stats and Information. So you could say that was a bad thing.

The Cowboys tied for the eighth-most sacks in the NFL with 23 when they rushed four or fewer defenders. Chicago led the NFL with 33 sacks. That's productive.

Of course when you talk about the Cowboys rushing four or fewer defenders, outside of the three down linemen, that fourth defender usually was outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware or Anthony Spencer.

Spencer and Ware rushed the passer standing up in most cases, but in 2013, they will do it with a hand down. That is if the Cowboys retain Spencer, who is a free agent.

The Cowboys do have the personnel, minus Spencer, to run an effective 4-3. There are, however, some concerns. The status of nose tackle Jay Ratliff, regardless of whether the Cowboys keep him or not, is a major issue. He faces a possible suspension by the league based on his arrest last week for driving while intoxicated. If you don't have Ratliff, the Cowboys' defensive tackles could be Jason Hatcher and Tyrone Crawford.

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said when the team drafted Crawford it saw him as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme.

The defensive ends could get a little tricky.

Ware is one end. If Spencer doesn't return, the Cowboys could move Hatcher to the edge and work the draft or free agency to pickup a defensive tackle. Henry Melton of Chicago could be a possibility.

Whatever the Cowboys decide to do with their personnel they have options to make the front four a success.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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