Switch to 4-3 could benefit Jay Ratliff

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
9:15
AM ET
There are indications Monte Kiffin could become the Dallas Cowboys new defensive coordinator. If Kiffin takes over the defense, it most likely will move from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3.

Kiffin runs a version of the 4-3 called the Tampa 2. It's designed for the four pass-rushers to get pressure on the quarterback and the linebackers and defensive backs to play zone coverage and converge on the ball carrier from different areas of the field.

We bring this up this morning because I thought about how it might affect nose tackle Jay Ratliff.

If the Cowboys were staying in a 3-4 alignment, I said Ratliff's days with the Cowboys would be over. His body is wearing down from years of getting double-teamed. His production slipped the past few years and, combined with the $1 million the team saves by cutting him and his confrontation with owner/general manager Jerry Jones, it would probably be time to go.

A move to a 4-3 alignment would prevent Ratliff from getting doubled by centers and guards on a consistent basis, and he could instead pressure the quarterback between the center and guard in a four-man pass rush.

Maybe keeping Ratliff around helps the Cowboys on this front. We assume one of the defensive ends in the new 4-3 will be DeMarcus Ware. The other end could be Jason Hatcher or maybe Anthony Spencer if he re-signs with the Cowboys. The two inside defensive tackles have to be quick off the ball and be able to pressure the quarterback, which brings us back to Ratliff.

Sean Lissemore is better suited to play end, and Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman are run-stoppers. Coleman is a free agent and his future with the team, like Spencer's, is uncertain.

Ratliff's status with the team -- which I thought wasn't so secure because of his health and lack of production -- now could be strengthened with a shift to the Tampa 2 defense.

I was told Ratliff is open to moving to defensive tackle, as he was a few years ago when former coach Wade Phillips tried him out at end.

That's a good attitude to have, and if the Cowboys believe in Ratliff's skill set, then keeping him is the best thing. If not, then I can truly understand why releasing him works. But if the Cowboys do, they better find a defensive tackle that can help with the pass rush.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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