I have spent quite a bit of time on the issue of the Cowboys 3-4 over the last several months and my concern about the way they deploy Jay Ratliff and attempt to play the 3-4 in a way that the more successful 3-4 teams in the league (Pittsburgh, New England, Green Bay, Baltimore, New York Jets) do not. The Cowboys have not used a 2-gap NT since Jason Ferguson. They have used an undersized nose shooting 1-gap in the form of Jay Ratliff for quite some time.
I have no issues with this on passing downs, because the Cowboys have proven that works well for them.
But, my issue is on 1st and 10 and 2nd and 8. Why would I not attempt to duplicate what works around the league? I think Rob Ryan will do this. Now, let's not confuse the issue. With a true nose tackle, you are only employing him between 25-30 snaps a game (of about 65 total). But, when you look at the weights of these gigantic nose tackles, you realize the Cowboys are using a player in this position who is exceptional, but also about 30-40 pounds lighter than Casey Hampton, Vince Wilfork, BJ Raji, Shaun Rogers, and the other speed bumps from around the league.
Those teams demand a Guard-Center double team, which ultimately allows your LBs to fill those gaps and plug the run. The Cowboys need more of that, and then kick Ratliff inside on passing downs to get his pass rush by pounding 1-gap when the Cowboys turn to 4-3 principles on 3rd down.
Anyway, to do this, you need the proper personnel. Josh Brent is a reasonable prospect to play a true nose, but I still need to look at the 2 exceptional talents who are available in the draft. In the 2nd and 3rd Rounds, the Cowboys would love to match up with one of these two talents if the draft falls properly.
Phil Taylor - Baylor - 6'3 - 337 - 5.14 40 Yard Dash
Taylor is a transfer from Penn State who gets a lot of people very fired up about his ultimate ability. He seems to have some rather rare quickness for a man his size, which is just the type of "dancing bear" you hope to find at the NT position.
Earlier this week, Taylor was the subject of some medical stories that suggested the state of his feet were causing him to slide down the board. This is particularly interesting given that he was thought to be a Top 25 talent. If he were to slide down the board, he might make it to #40 where Dallas selects in the 2nd Round.
By the way, those medical rumors appear to perhaps be a smoke screen by a team hoping to make him fall down to them in the draft.
Also, when he was at Penn State, he did have some off-field issues involving a fight with another student. But, his time at Baylor was event-free.
Regardless, here is some tape for you:
Taylor vs Oklahoma - 2010
Taylor vs Oklahoma State - 2010
Next is the case of Kenrick Ellis.
Kenrick Ellis - Hampton - 6'4 - 346 - 5.28 40 Yard Dash
Ellis is ranked behind Taylor by a rather healthy margin by most draft services, but still seems to have plenty of intrigue in his game. Like Taylor, one of his red flags is major concern about not getting to absurdly big with weight gain along the way. Also, his motor is questioned at times as a player. He tends to disappear at times.
Also, he is a transfer from South Carolina where drug tests were failed and plenty of difficult times ended in his transfer to Hampton. At Hampton, he was suspended again. Trouble does seem to follow him a bit.
For many of these concerns, he is rated well below Taylor. It would appear the highest he could go is around #40 and others suggest he could still be snagged near the end of Round 3 (#96). That is quite a range, but remember, there are only 14 teams running the 3-4 defense so many teams don't even consider this type of player. That would explain the variances in his rating.
We have almost no tape on Ellis, but here is one thing we found:
Kenrick Ellis From the NFLPA Texas vs the Nation All-Star Game in January
Ellis is #97 in White (wearing white gloves)
My first impression of both of them is that they certainly do not move like fat guys. These both carry their weight very well and move with some surprising fluidity.
Put on your scouting glasses and leave your comments below...