Cowboys: How Ohio State Can Fix Pass Rush

Nov 28, 2015; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines offensive line lines up against the Ohio State Buckeyes defense line during the game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 28, 2015; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines offensive line lines up against the Ohio State Buckeyes defense line during the game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys top need of the offseason might by a future quarterback, but Ohio State could rebuild a defensive front that still needs multiple playmakers.

If you’re in the same camp that I reside, you’re dying to know if the Dallas Cowboys will shock the NFL universe by selecting a future quarterback, like Jared Goff of California or Carson Wentz of North Dakota State. It’s a great topic to discuss and debate, but we won’t know anything until the 2016 NFL Draft kicks off later this month.

If indications coming out of Valley Ranch offer a lick of truth, the Cowboys will not be selecting a quarterback with the fourth-overall selection in the first round of the draft. It’s quite likely that Dallas won’t even select a future quarterback to develop in the second round.

Recent actions suggest that owner and general manager Jerry Jones might even be planning to wait until the third round, or later, to choose a young prospect like Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg or perhaps Dak Prescott of Mississippi State.

Based on these details, it sure appears that the Cowboys might be leaning on improving a pass rush that has been non-existent since the release of franchise sack-leader DeMarcus Ware a couple of years ago.

Make no mistake – no other position is of greater importance than defensive end in this draft, and if I’m Jones, then I’m looking to guarantee myself at least one thing entering the ’16 regular season:

A dominant pass rush for the future.

If quarterback is the most valuable position in football, then those who put quarterbacks on their rear-ends are the second most valuable, period. Everything about a great defense is based upon the talent overload that exists on the line of scrimmage. Everything else is icing on the cake.

Dallas has some icing, but there’s not much cake to be had.

Yuck – unless you’re four-years old.

Keeping up with numerous mock drafts this offseason, the name Joey Bosa of Ohio State is one of the most common players at any position linked to the Cowboys. Bosa’s former teammate, Noah Spence, may not come up in nearly as many conversations about Cowboys potential draft picks, but he should.

Bosa’s selection in the top-10 of the first round is all but assured. It may come down to which teams covet the 6’5” and 270 pound defensive end. Bosa’s best fit is as a true end in a 4-3 scheme like the one currently utilized by Rod Marinelli. Entering his third season as defensive coordinator in Dallas, it’s time to give this assistant known for front-four pressure the tools needed to do that.

Let’s remember that the Cowboys switched back to the 4-3 alignment back in 2013, and no premium picks have used on any player that lines up on the ball since then.


In Bosa, the Cowboys would have an immediate upgrade over 2015 team sack-leader Demarcus Lawrence, a smaller, quicker pass rusher that does show some promise for the future. Having said that, are you at all convinced that Lawrence, with all of 8.0 career sacks in two seasons, is worth a contract extension in the next year or so?

I’m sure not.

Bosa is a bigger lineman that may not have the pass-rushing moves of the traditional early first-round selection, but he’s not lacking in this area and he does bring more size and strength than some of your smaller, faster edge rushers – like Randy Gregory, a second-round pick of the Cowboys in 2015. Gregory has the same height as Bosa, but gives up close to 50 pounds, thus rendering the former Nebraska star almost useless against the run.

For a second round pick, I’m looking at Spence.

According to, Spence is projected as a mid-second-round selection. If this is indeed the case, I’m jumping all over this slightly overlooked prospect that looks like the perfect combination of everything you want in a defensive end. His legs are like tree trunks and he’s got great explosion off the snap.

Spence could end up playing Ware’s old outside linebacker position in a 3-4 somewhere, or he could handle the right side as early as his second season while developing for a year under players like Lawrence and Gregory – if and when last year’s second-round pick hits the field. Spence stands 6’2” and weighs 250, but one look at this player tells you that he has plenty of lower and upper body strength. His performance at the Senior Bowl alerted the entire football community that Spence is the real deal, the only question remaining surrounds his previous banishment from Ohio State for substance abuse, an event that led to Spence playing at Eastern Kentucky last season.

No, there’s no arrests for sexual assault or battery, no issues with illegal firearms or anything that might really make a team remove Spence from its draft board. Sure, substance abuse can be an issue, but seeing Spence interviewed gives a very positive impression that would leave me fearless if it came to choosing him early in the draft.

The Cowboys are lacking book-end pass rushers that have historically meant tremendous success, especially when coupled with an offense led by a Hall of Fame quarterback.

When Roger Staubach was guiding Dallas to five Super Bowls in the 1970s, names like Larry Cole, Harvey Martin and Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones were rushing on defense off the edge.

When it was Troy Aikman doing the same in the 1990s, better-remembered ends like Charles Haley and Tony Tolbert were the primary disruptors collapsing the sides of the pocket.

Tony Romo might not be a Hall of Fame candidate just yet, but a Super Bowl win, or two, during the twilight of his otherwise outstanding career would change all of that in 4-8 quarters of football. Romo will need a dominant defense to get that done, however.

Next: Cowboys: Drafting A Quarterback Late Would Be A Waste

Granted, there was special talent at defensive tackle during Dallas’ glory years in decades past, something that the current Cowboys still lack. Having said that, it’s a bit easier to find a solid rotation of interior defenders than it is to find a couple of outside rushers that can push double digits in sacks and lots of quarterback hurries.

There’s numerous ways the Cowboys could go in the coming draft, but solidifying a defense that isn’t currently built to contend isn’t going to make that leap by drafting more defensive backs in the early going.