Countdown to Camp: Defensive Line

Newly acquired DT Jason Ferguson holds the key in the Cowboys move to the 3-4.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE Marcus Spears, NG Jason Ferguson, RE Greg Ellis. Backups -- NG La'Roi Glover, NG Leo Carson, NG Jermaine Brooks, NG Thomas Johnson, DE Kenyon Coleman, DE Chris Canty, DE Eric Ogbogu, DE Jay Ratliff.

The transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4 will mean diminished roles for tackle La'Roi Glover and end Greg Ellis -- the team's two best linemen last season. Ellis has led the Cowboys in sacks the past two years and Glover has been to four consecutive Pro Bowls, but both are considered too small to play full-time in the 3-4.

"It changes my role because I'll be playing more than one position," Glover said of all the offseason changes made. "I've been playing some nose, some end. And if we do a change-up it will be some tackle. So it's a lot of different positions from a lot of different areas. But you look at the guys we got in here now and you see that an offense can't just key in one guy."

Newly acquired defensive tackle Jason Ferguson and rookie Marcus Spears are ideal fits for the 3-4. They have the size to be run stoppers at nose tackle and end respectively. Ferguson and Glover alternating at nose tackle will certainly give centers fits because the strength and quick change of pace.

"He's been a starter from almost, literally, day one," owner Jerry Jones said of Ferguson. "Production, determination are the two characteristics that come to mind when you talk about Jason Ferguson coming to the Dallas Cowboys. What really impacted us was his versatility. He can play in an odd or even front, a 3-4 or a 4-3."

For Ferguson, the move to the 3-4 is nothing new. As a run-stuffing nose tackle, the 6-3, 308 pound lineman has experience in the Cowboys' new defensive formation, but continues to adjust to new surroundings.

"We're all learning the 3-4. We're all learning together. A lot of teams have been successful in the 3-4 defense, so that's what we're going to do this year," he said.

Ellis, Spears, Kenyon Coleman and draft pick Chris Canty should form a nice rotation at end.

The wildcard is Canty, who is still recovering from multiple surgeries this offseason but should be ready to go by the second week of training camp. The Cowboys are hoping they picked up a steal in the fourth round of this year's draft in selecting Canty, but that won't be proven until he actually practices for the first time as a Cowboy in Oxnard.

Along with Canty, watch out for fellow rookie Jay Ratliff. The former Auburn star was impressive during the Cowboys' only mini-camp of the offseason and has the "high-motor" personality that Parcells likes.