Hatcher's good start evident in new Cowboys defense

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 21, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
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IRVING -- Everybody figured the Dallas Cowboys' new defensive scheme would produce sacks.

And it has -- 10 so far, most in the NFL, including two last week by defensive end Jason Hatcher.

Who figured that?

"It felt good, man," Hatcher said, after recording the two sacks and hitting the quarterback three times in the 27-24 overtime victory against San Francisco. "The first time in my career I had two sacks in one game. I hope they keep coming."

So do the Cowboys. Hatcher's emergence is a testament to the pass rush being produced under first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

"Hatcher has been looking great," Ryan said last week after making the sixth-year pro the starter at right defensive end over Marcus Spears. "We're fortunate enough to have some big-time ballplayers. But I mean, Hatcher is a starter, and I think he'd be starting on any team in the league."

Hatcher had four tackles, one for loss and a quarterback pressure against the Jets. He's had decent seasons for the Cowboys -- 36 tackles in 2008 and 27 quarterback pressures in '09.

But he's never had more than 2 1/2 sacks in a season, which he did as a rookie in 2006 after being drafted by the Cowboys in the third round out of Grambling State.

It's hard to say what the Cowboys expected of Hatcher this season. They let him test free agency, then went after him a little harder once they lost Stephen Bowen to the Washington Redskins. He signed a three-year contract at the start of training camp.

"He's played really sound defense for us, but he's also made a ton of plays," coach Jason Garrett said. "...He's making tackles for losses, and he's making sacks, and he's really making a big impact on our defense."

Hatcher's second sack helped stop the 49ers' first drive of the second half, with the Cowboys trailing 14-7.

Inside linebacker Keith Brooking said the sacks will keep coming, and not just for Hatcher. The 14-year veteran said Ryan's system is designed to make pass rushers out of almost everyone.

"We talked early in the season about the multiplicity of our defense," Brooking said. "That's what it's doing, is creating one-on-ones for a lot of guys, and they're showing, 'Hey, we can beat one-on-ones.' We're not getting a lot of doubles, and guys like Hatcher, Jay Ratliff, me, Anthony Spencer, we're able to get guys and get pressure on them."

Briefly

Tony Romo's performance last week was an award-winner. The Cowboys quarterback was selected the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 345 yards and two touchdowns, despite a rib fracture and punctured lung.

Cowboys receiver Kevin Ogletree was fined $7,500 for a facemask penalty on 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown. Ogletree was penalized 15 yards for the personal foul at the end of a 33-yard catch-and-run. He can appeal the fine.

Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo said Washington defenders will go after Tony Romo with the same zeal they used to get after Kevin Kolb last week. Sacking Romo is the main objective, Orakpo said, not hurting the Cowboys quarterback more. "Obviously, you can think of it like that," Orakpo said in a conference call when asked if Romo's ribs had a bull's eye on them. "If somebody gets injured, you want to go after that injury. But we're just going to play our game. We're going to try to get Romo down when we can."

Staff writer Charean Williams contributed to this report.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

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