Analysis  

 

Jason Garrett's job security could be tied to Cowboys' defense

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jason Garrett has made his name on offense, but it might be the other side of the ball that makes or breaks his chances to keep his job past 2014.

Garrett is entering the final year of his contract, and with the clock ticking, the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line is priority No. 1.

"It's a big part of playing the 4-3 defense, and we're gonna evaluate the players we have, the players who are available to us based on their health and make the necessary decisions," Garrett said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "We have to get better on defense -- there's no question about that. I think everyone understands that when you play a 4-3 defense, it starts up front."

The Cowboys finished last season with one of the worst defenses in team history. On Thursday in Indianapolis, their coach said injuries really hurt them up front and forced them to play 20 different defensive linemen due to a rash of injuries.

Perhaps no one along the Cowboys' front 4 was more banged up than DeMarcus Ware. A bad back, elbow, neck and quad contributed to Ware's worst season of his career, but Garrett believes his star pass rusher can return to All-Pro status but only if he's healthy enough to stay on the practice field.

"One of the things he and I have talked about a lot is he needs to practice football more," Garrett said of Ware. "He hasn't practiced enough football over the last couple of years because of his injuries. We gotta get him healthy and ... we feel like he's a cornerstone piece. (We're) just excited to get him back healthy and playing again."

Ware produced a career-low six sacks last season.

"What happens is, I don't care how great of a player you are at any position, your skills start to erode, if you will, over the course of the week," Garrett said. "You need to do the things necessary to get yourself ready to play in a game. Again, hats off to him for playing through the number of injuries that he did to get himself ready to play on Sunday."

Ware, who had right elbow surgery Tuesday, isn't the only concern for the Cowboys' damaged defensive line. They'll more than likely lose defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, who collected a team-high 11 sacks and reached his first Pro Bowl last season, to free agency. Anthony Spencer, who missed the majority of the 2013 season because of injury, is probably out the door, too.

You can bet the Cowboys, who didn't select a single defensive lineman during last year's NFL draft, won't do the same in the 2014 NFL Draft. After all, Garrett's job might depend on it.

Follow Desmond Purnell on Twitter @DesmondPurnell.

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