Jason Hatcher: Leaders 'doing great'

It was back in February when Jason Hatcher got on the radio and spoke the truth -- well, depending on your point of view -- when asked who the leaders were on the Dallas Cowboys.

"I gotta be honest with you, that's a good question. That's a good question. I really don't know," Hatcher told the "Ben & Skin Show" on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. "It's just another thing we really need ... like the Ravens. We don't have that. We've got the talent. We've got everything we need. I think we get like a Ray Lewis-type … everybody buys into him. When Ray Lewis speaks, everybody listens to him. A guy like that, we really don't got that. I think we definitely need somebody like that."

Some fans took issue with Hatcher's perception of what leadership is in the locker room, while others agreed with his assessment.

I felt Hatcher was being honest. But there is only one Ray Lewis. Just like there is only one Tom Brady.

You can't be them.

Just be yourself.

Wednesday afternoon at Valley Ranch, Hatcher was asked about his comments.

"I really think that's old, man. That's water under the bridge. That happened months ago," Hatcher said. "It's a new day. I'm tired of speaking about that. We're going in a good direction. I love my teammates and the leaders are the leaders and they're doing great."

Leadership comes in many forms.

As Tony Romo has grown as a quarterback, so too have his leadership skills. When Romo first became a starter, he wouldn't get on Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn much because they were veteran players who had seen and done it all.

But as time went by, Romo picked up the vocal tone with Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree. Of course, with a younger corps of receivers, it's only natural for Romo to get on Andre Holmes, Raymond Radway and Dwayne Harris.

It's the same with DeMarcus Ware.

When Ware broke in, Greg Ellis was the esteemed leader of the defense. He led by example with his work on and off the field. When Ellis was released, Ware became a more vocal leader.

"Leaders don't try to do it. You got to earn respect, and you just don't say something on the radio and become a leader, you have to earn it," Hatcher said. "I'm going to earn it and work hard, and I'm going to be a guy my teammates can count on."

Last season, Hatcher had his best season as a professional.

He finished with a career-high 4.5 sacks in a starting role and also picked up 11 quarterback pressures.

"I had fun, my role expanded, worked my butt off and I got to be a starter," he said. "Last year was the most fun I had. Coach [Rob] Ryan came in and he gave me an opportunity, and I'm looking forward to having a better year than last year."

Hatcher's comments about leadership might have irked some fans, but that's OK. Nobody should get upset with someone for being honest.

Do the Cowboys need Ray Lewis-type leaders? No. They just need players to become positive examples on and off the field.

Now for the mailbag.

Q: With so many reports about great things in Dez Bryant's development, how do you think he will do in the upcoming season? -- Trevor Koch (Jersey Shore, Pa.)

A: Bryant is a wonderful talent who has a command of the playbook. There are the little things Bryant must fix, such as route running, making sure he's calm on the field when things don't go his way, as well as keeping his off-field issues in check. His only known issue this offseason was a little spat he encountered in a Miami nightclub. Bryant should be poised for a 1,000-yard season and become a dependable player for quarterback Tony Romo.

Q: Who does Brandon Carr remind you of, and can you picture him as a true No. 1 cornerback? -- Shea Summey (Winston Salem, N.C.)

A: Carr has the skill set to become a No. 1 corner for the Cowboys. (Well, he is the No. 1 corner based on the five-year, $50.1 million deal he signed this offseason.) Carr can cover receivers on both sides and in the slot. Teams picked on him in Kansas City, and I expect that to happen with the Cowboys. I can't tell you who he reminds me of, but I do know he's an upgrade over Terence Newman, who struggled with confidence the last two months of the season. Carr has a quiet confidence that the Cowboys need right now in their secondary.

Q: Why is the coaching staff so stubborn about potentially moving Jay Ratliff to end? It is so blatantly obvious that he wears down as the season goes along. I read that they feel his pass-rush ability is the main reason. But I just feel like we are destroying a vital investment every single snap making him deal with unnecessary double-teams. Thanks. And love your column. -- Pat (Washington, D.C)

A: I've asked defensive line coach Brian Baker about this very subject. The Cowboys like Jason Hatcher, Sean Lissemore, Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman at end more than Ratliff. This is not to say Ratliff can't play end, because in certain defensive packages he does play a defensive tackle type spot. Ratliff battled a rib injury the last month of the season and, combined with getting double-teamed, that is the reason he wore down. Ratliff is a quick player with a high motor who still gives centers and guards fits inside. It's probably best to leave him as a nose tackle.

Q: Mr. Watkins, I am a Tony Romo supporter. He is the best quarterback since Troy Aikman. Do the other players in that locker room feel the same way? -- Ruben James (San Marcos, Texas)

A: Romo doesn't get enough credit from the fans, I think, for what he's done at the position. Is he the best quarterback since Troy Aikman? Sure he is. But what does that mean? Is Romo better than Quincy Carter? Better than Chad Hutchinson? Better than Drew Henson? Better than Drew Bledsoe? The debate, at least for me, when it comes to Romo is can he lead a team to a championship? That's it. Nothing more. It doesn't matter if he's better than Aikman. That man is a Hall of Famer who won three Super Bowl titles. It's unfair to compare Romo to Aikman. I'd rather compare Romo to Danny White.

Q: What's up Calvin? Just wondering what your thoughts are on the Cowboys' No. 3 receiver spot this year. Anyone in mind who you think can have a productive season in that spot? Also, do you believe that with our newly acquired cornerbacks in [Morris] Claiborne and Carr our defense will be significantly better? -- Dan (Pearl River, N.Y.)

A: The No. 3 receiver spot is open. Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris, Raymond Radway and Danny Coale are in the mix. Ogletree might be the leader in the clubhouse, but it will be interesting to see how Radway performs after recovering from leg surgery last year. Coale is a dark horse, and Harris, while with another year of experience should help, is slower than I expected. Holmes is fast but is still learning how to be a receiver.