Cowboys Draft 2012: Good Fits for the 4-3

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Today’s chat with the National Football Post’s scouting director Wes Bunting looks at good fits for a 4-3 front, should the Cowboys move more to that scheme.

Cowboys Nation:  Let’s change the defensive templates.  Reports from Dallas claim the team is thinking of switching to a 4-3 as its base front.  I think free agency factors into the team’s thinking, whether they pursue a player like Mario Williams.

I’d like to review some of the bigger names we’ve discussed and talk about their fits in a 4-man front, either as defensive ends or as linebackers.  Let’s start with Michael Brockers.

Wes Bunting:  I think Brockers is a 3-4 guy but he can play inside in a 4-3.  He can anchor.  He’s quick off the ball.  He’s quick up the field.  I think he can develop as a pass rusher.  I think he can be one of the best 5-techniques in the NFL and I think he can be a good starting 4-3 defensive tackle.

CN:  If the team that drafts him played him in a four man line, would he play the nose, stacking over the center?  Where would he play?

WB:  No.  He would be a 3-technique.

CN:  What about Quinton Coples in that front?

WB:  Couple would be a defensive end in the 4-3.  I think he could play either on the strong or the weak side.  You can get creative with him and move him inside on 3rd downs, play him as a 3-technique, which he did a ton as a junior.

CN:  How did he perform as a 3-technique?

WB:  He was very good.  He was explosive.  He’s a long guy.  He’s tough to block.  He’s 6’6”, 290.  He can do whatever he wants.

CN:  6’6”, 290 is very similar in height and weight to Mario Williams.  One of the questions in Cowboys world is whether Williams hits the market or not.  News from Houston is that his cap number is too big to franchise him.  Compare those two guys coming out.  Williams was the first overall pick, but entering this season Coples was in the discussion to be the first player taken after Andrew Luck.

WB:  Williams was more powerful on contact.  He was explosive, but he wanted to play in contact.  He was long and he could fend off blocks.  And there were not any motor questions with him.  He played hard play-in and play-out.  He was a little raw, needed to use his hands better.  Overall, he was more of a force physically than Quinton Coples.

CN:  You don’t have any doubts about Coples as an edge rusher, it seems.  I reviewed your report and you talked about Coples getting through the C-gaps, around offensive tackles.

WB:  He can. He can get after the passer a number of ways.  The biggest issue with him is motor.  If he wants to be a great player he certainly can be.

CN:  Let’s switch to linebackers.  It seems Dallas has good fits if they switch to 4-3 leaving Sean Lee in the middle and moving Bruce Carter back to the weakside, where he played at North Carolina.  Give us some names to consider at strong-side outside ‘backer, starting in round two.

WB:  Maybe a Dont’a Hightower, if he were to fall.  Maybe a Shea McClellin from Boise State, in the 3rd round.  Josh Kaddu from Oregon.  There are not a lot of pure strong-side guys for the 4-3 this year.  Those are three I would highlight.

CN:  McClellin played defensive end at Boise, but you’ve seen enough to feel he can stick with tight ends?

WB:  He did everything at Boise.  He played with his hand on the ground.  They stood him up outside.  They stood him up inside.  They blitzed him.  For a big guy he does a nice job turning and running vertically down the field, which is impressive.

I’d add Bobby Wagner from Utah State to this list.  He’s got some snap. He’s a little short for that spot, but he’s a powerful kid.

Next:  A late free safety addition and the cornerbacks, ranked on ability to play press coverage.  

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Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ TheBoys.com in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for SportsTalkLine.com