The roster is set… for now. The Dallas Cowboys returned to the practice field to prepare for a game that actually counts and with it an end to the constant hand-wringing on who will play where. This is especially true along the defensive line where Dallas, after releasing Lavar Edwards to make room for RB Christine Michael, has placed many of their eggs.
Dallas currently has 10 defensive line players practicing, albeit with the greatest talent they possess there unable to participate in the preparation.
Dallas is proceeding through ‘Giants Week’ as if All-Pro pass-rusher Greg Hardy will be unavailable for Week 1 – though his replacement at right end, incumbent team sack leader Jeremy Mincey, seems unconcerned.
“Fierce,” Mincey says. “That’s the word. This defense plans on being fierce.”
That’s not a diss of the New York Giants. Nor is it a downplaying of Hardy the defensive end who is suspended for four games and banned from practicing with the team. But Mince tells CHQ he is starting at right end, with Tank Lawrence at left end.
There’s our concession to the idea Hardy won’t appeal and be read to play on Sunday night at AT&T Stadium.
Mincey had been moved to left defensive end to back up Lawrence over the summer, but will return to the right side while Hardy is out.
“Our thoughts right now are we are accepting that he won’t be here for four games,” COO Stephen Jones tells “Shan & RJ” on 105.3 The Fan. “If that were to change for the better, then great. But right now we’re making plans as if he’s going to be suspended for four games and ready to move forward.”
On September 3rd, Hardy was in talks with the NFLPA about getting his four-game suspension reduced in light of Tom Brady’s successful overturning of his own four-game suspension in federal court. Mecklenburg Count Judge Rebecca Thorn-Tin convicted Hardy of domestic violence on July 15, 2014 for assaulting then-girlfriend Nicole Holder. In 2015, the Carolina Panthers placed Hardy on the NFL commissioner’s exempt list where he missed 15 regular season and two playoff games. On Feb. 9th, 2015, the case was dismissed after Holder failed to appear in court during the jury trial.
On April 22nd, the NFL suspended Hardy for 10 games without pay in 2015, though it was reduced to four game on July 10th. If four stands, Mincey is the guy that will take the brunt of Hardy’s snaps.
In the base defense, the Cowboys will line up Demarcus Lawrence on the left side, with a rotation of several players at the nose tackle position including Nick Hayden, Terrell McClain, Ken Bishop and Davon Coleman. Tyrone Crawford will be the primary 3-technique DT, with Mincey getting the nod at right end. During nickel downs, expect Mincey to slide inside, next to Crawford, so that stud rookie defensive end Randy Gregory can rush from the edge.
Gregory, a late second-round pick who was projected to be an early first rounder, has shown his talent in the preseason. He recorded three sacks and forced multiple holding penalties, but is probably not quite ready to handle the run-stopping responsibility that goes along with starting. There is probably some concern with him being able to hold up to the pounding at this point of his career, and maintain what appears to be plus-level rush ability throughout the entire season.
So Mincey, who had six sacks in 2014 to lead the team, returns to his role as a starter. The 2014 free agent addition started all 16 games last season for Dallas, after being a lightly revered addition following the loss of Demarcus Ware. The now 31-year old quickly became a team leader, on and off the field. According to Pro Football Focus, Mincey led the entire team in total QB pressures as well, with 7 QN Hits and 37 QB Hurries for a total of 50 pressures.
Mincey’s experience should be on full display, as the Giants are starting a rookie left tackle who was drafted to be their right tackle. Ereck Flowers from University of Miami moved over after Will Beatty tore a pectoral muscle in May and is expected to be out for a few months.
Both the Giants and the Cowboys spent the offseason shuffling their offensive lines due to injuries, but the Cowboys will be starting the same line that spent the majority of last season together. The Giants haven’t had much time to become a cohesive unit and practice exactly how they will handle stunts, twists and the like. Rod Marinelli finally has a stable of Rushmen to be proud of, and on Sunday, Mr. Mince will once again be leading the charge.