Cowboys’ Melton must release his ‘interior beast’ at tackle

Posted Friday, Jul. 25, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Henry Melton is arguably the most important player for the Dallas Cowboys’ defense not to be a laughingstock for another year.

He understands coordinator Rod Marinelli’s defense as well as anyone and knows the importance of his position within the scheme. It requires a dominant three-technique tackle who can get pressure up the middle and demand enough attention to allow the weakside linebacker to roam freely to the ball.

Some of the best at fulfilling that role were Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and John Randle. Melton hopes he can play the part with the Cowboys.

“I’d love to be the interior beast that this defense demands to be successful,” Melton said. “You’ve got to have a dominant force in the interior to really pump that ball out and get turnovers and make sure the secondary can break to the ball. Coming here, I’m doing everything I can to do that.”

Melton has shown he has the ability to do the demanding job during his years with Marinelli and the Chicago Bears from 2010-13. He had his most impressive season in 2012, anchoring the fifth-ranked Bears’ defense and earning a Pro Bowl berth.

What allows him to be such a dominant force up front?

“His movement,” Marinelli said. “He has good instincts, really good awareness, especially inside. He’s also physical and has great speed, just tough to block.”

Melton finished the 2012 season with 44 combined tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles. He played in only three games last season, though, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and ending his season.

Melton, a Grapevine High and University of Texas product, decided this off-season to join his hometown team, signing a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Cowboys that includes a team option for three more years.

It reunites him with Marinelli and gives him an opportunity to re-establish himself as an elite defensive lineman. If he can do that, it’s no secret what kind of impact he can make on a defense that allowed the third-most yards in NFL history last season.

“It’s critical that you have anchor-type players, marquee-type players, who can take the burden off the other guys,” coach Jason Garrett said. “The more you can spread the burden out, the better it is for everybody. When you have players who get the attention of the opposing unit, that helps the guy playing next to him.

“Henry Melton is a guy who really was an explosive player for Chicago. Once he established himself as a starter, he was a Pro Bowl player until his injury. He’s still a young player. He’s very athletic.”

So athletic that some might be surprised to learn that Melton was a star running back in high school and began his college career as a running back before moving to defensive tackle.

The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Melton even got a few practice reps at fullback with the Bears for potential short-yardage situations and would be more than willing to do it for the Cowboys.

“Oh, I could easily do it,” Melton said, smiling. “But defensive tackle is a whole different beast than running back. No regrets, though. I love it.”

Melton is in good spirits early in camp, although he wouldn’t divulge any of the nicknames that Marinelli has given him. Instead, he’s simply happy to be full-go with no limitations coming back from injury.

Still, he isn’t quite where he feels he’ll be when the season starts Sept. 7 against San Francisco.

“I’m getting back, but I’ve got a long way to go until I start feeling really dominant,” Melton said. “But it’s been a good start.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?

Sunday, September 21Full Scoreboard
Toronto2Top 9th | Box
NY Yankees5@theBallpark | TV: SNET, YES
Washington «2Final | Box
NY Mets7Bottom 8th | Box
Atlanta2@theBallpark | TV: SNY, FSN-S
Boston3Bottom 8th | Box
Baltimore2@theBallpark | TV: NESN, MASN
Milwaukee0Final | Box
Pittsburgh «1
Chicago WSox10Top 8th | Box
Tampa Bay3@theBallpark | TV: WGN, Sun Sports
Seattle3Bottom 6th | Box
Houston4@theBallpark | TV: ROOT-NW, CSN-HOU
Detroit2Top 6th | Box
Kansas City4@theBallpark | TV: FSN-DET, FSN-KC, TBS
Cleveland7Bottom 6th | Box
Minnesota2@theBallpark | TV: STO, FSN-N
Los Angeles5Bottom 5th | Box
Chicago Cubs4@theBallpark | TV: SportsNet LA, CSN-CHI
Texas0Bottom 3rd | Box
LA Angels0@theBallpark | TV: FSN-SW, FSN-W
Philadelphia1Bottom 1st | Box
Oakland0@theBallpark | TV: CSN-PHI, CSN-CA
Arizona0Bottom 1st | Box
Colorado0@theBallpark | TV: FSN-AZ, ROOT-RM
San Francisco0Bottom 1st | Box
San Diego0@theBallpark | TV: CSN-BA, FSN-SD
Cincinnati 9/21 8:05 PM ET
St. Louis TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Sunday, September 21Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Week 3Full Scoreboard
Tampa Bay14Final | Box
Atlanta «56Gridiron Replay
San Diego «22Final | Box
Tennessee7Final | Box
Cincinnati «33
Baltimore «23Final | Box
Green Bay7Final | Box
Detroit «19
Indianapolis «44Final | Box
Oakland9Final | Box
New England «16
Minnesota9Final | Box
New Orleans «20
Houston17Final | Box
NY Giants «30
Washington274th Qtr 5:26 | Box
Philadelphia37@theGridiron | TV: FOX
Dallas «34Final | Box
St. Louis31
San Francisco01st Qtr 9:40 | Box
Arizona3@theGridiron | TV: FOX
Kansas City 4:25 PM ET
Miami TV: CBS
Denver 4:25 PM ET
Seattle TV: CBS
Pittsburgh 8:30 PM ET
Carolina TV: NBC
Chicago 8:30 PM ET
Full Scoreboard
Sunday, September 21Full Scoreboard
Columbus «4Final | Box
Buffalo 9/21 5:00 PM ET
Washington TV: CSN-DC, NHL Network
St. Louis 9/21 6:30 PM ET
Calgary 9/21 8:00 PM ET
Edmonton 9/21 8:00 PM ET
Full Scoreboard