Rod Marinelli doesn’t have a Warren Sapp, a Simeon Rice, a Julius Peppers, a Jason Hatcher or a DeMarcus Ware. Instead, the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator has 13 mostly no-name linemen in a crowded meeting room that includes three players attempting returns to the 53-player roster.
Marinelli admits it makes it “harder” to count on a consistent pass rush without an elite pass rusher.
“We’ve just got to be able to keep developing and keep working at it,” Marinelli said. “I mean you’ve got to maybe add a blitz here or an extra rusher here, but at the end of the day, you’d like to be able to rush four.”
The Cowboys’ defense has done some good things: They are tied for ninth in points allowed, 14th in yards allowed and tied for fifth in takeaways. It is a far cry from last year when Dallas allowed the third-most yards and the second-most first downs in NFL history.
The Cowboys, though, rank only 31st in sacks per pass play.
“We do a lot of good things, but we’re just leaving some good rushes out there,” defensive tackle Henry Melton said. “We’re going to go back to work and figure it out.”
The team’s 13 defensive linemen, including Josh Brent, Amobi Okoye and DeMarcus Lawrence, who are on various reserve lists, have a combined 100 career sacks. Ware, the team’s all-time sacks leader who was released in the off-season, has 124 career sacks.
Hatcher returns to AT&T Stadium on Monday, having parlayed a career-best 11 sacks last season with the Cowboys into a free-agent contract with Washington.
The only household names among the Cowboys’ defensive linemen are former Pro Bowlers Anthony Spencer and Melton. Neither starts, as both continue to return to form after serious knee surgeries last season.
Melton leads the Cowboys with 1 1/2 sacks. As a team, they have only seven, including two by linebackers. That puts Dallas on pace for 16.
The Cowboys’ team record for fewest sacks in a season is 20, which is all the 1960 and ’63 teams managed.
Seven NFL players, including Ware with seven, have as many sacks as the Cowboys have as a team this season.
“I’m surprised,” said third-year defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford, who still is looking for his first career sack. “Going into this season, with the guys that we have — Melton and [Jeremy] Mincey and Nick [Hayden] and DeMarcus [Lawrence], all our guys — I felt like there was no way we’d have only seven sacks, and our leading guy would have 1 1/2 sacks. That’s just the way it’s worked out, and that’s just the way it is right now, but we’ve got to change that, definitely.”
In 18 NFL seasons, Marinelli has had a double-digit sack leader 11 times. But the Cowboys could go without a double-digit sack leader for the first time since 2005, Ware’s rookie season.
“We’re working at it, believe me, and we’re coming up short,” Marinelli said. “Moving guys around, trying to get maybe the proper matchups, but then, it’s just coming back to work and just keep going after it. They’ll come. We’ve just got to keep fighting.”
The Cowboys have 75 quarterback pressures, according to coaching film. But three games this season, they have finished without a sack.
“There are times we’ve gotten good pressure and affected the quarterback,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Other times, we haven’t done that, but we continue to make that an emphasis. It’s not all about the sacks, but we’d like to have that sack number increase, and certainly we’d like to have that pressure frequency increase.”
• The Cowboys have declared defensive end Jack Crawford (calf) and right tackle Doug Free (foot) out for the the Redskins game on Monday night in Arlington.
• Receiver Dez Bryant (shoulder), linebacker Bruce Carter (thigh), tackle Jermey Parnell (chest), defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee/foot) and quarterback Tony Romo (back) will play.