Rod Marinelli demands great effort

IRVING, Texas -- Based on what we've heard, defensive tackle Marvin Austin is not the right kind of guy -- at least not according to the standard coach Jason Garrett has established.

He hasn't consistently played hard since the New York Giants made him a second-round pick in 2011. Football hasn't been particularly important to him, according to everything you read. And playing with a relentless spirit and passion is something that others do.

Understand that none of that has to do with talent. Austin has plenty of that. Always has.

But we're talking about the epitome of a bust. Austin has played in just 14 games, never as a starter. The Giants cut him at the end of training camp, and Miami cut him Oct. 15 after three weeks with the Dolphins.

Now Austin is getting an opportunity in Dallas for three reasons: The Cowboys are desperate for defensive linemen, Garrett has created a culture that can accept a player who doesn't fit his usual criteria, and the Cowboys think defensive line coach Rod Marinelli can get Austin to maximize his skill set.

Based on what Marinelli has done with defensive linemen off the street, such as Drake Nevis, Nick Hayden, George Selvie and Jarius Wynn, there's no reason to doubt him.

When the Cowboys started training camp, their top six defensive linemen were DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff, Ben Bass and Tyrone Crawford.

Only Hatcher played last week. Ware was inactive. Ratliff has been released, and Spencer (knee), Bass (shoulder) and Crawford (Achilles) are on injured reserve.

Led by Hatcher, the Cowboys' group of largely anonymous defensive linemen helped hold Philadelphia to 278 yards and a field goal. The Eagles had been averaging 449.8 yards and 27.7 points in their first six games.

Stopping Philadelphia started with the Cowboys' defensive line holding running back LeSean McCoy to 55 yards on 18 carries and harassing quarterbacks Nick Foles and Matt Barkley. The defensive line will need the same type of effort Sunday to beat Detroit, who Marinelli coached from 2006-08, and its array of big-play performers on offense.

If the Cowboys can't get to Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford, it won't be surprising if he becomes the fourth quarterback this season to pass for 400 yards against the Cowboys. But Austin can help this week. If he can survive practice, that is.

"This the fastest tempo I've ever been around. Individual drills were very demanding. The coaches are very demanding. It's intense. It's way intense," said Austin, his chest still heaving as he sat at his locker a few minutes after practice ended Wednesday.

"The way they practice and the way they want us to play, I gotta keep working to get in better shape so I can go out there and perform. I got a lot of work to do."

My guess is Austin will be here for two weeks or will make a significant contribution by the end of the season. See, Garrett is building a team that plays hard every snap. It's part of its identity regardless of whether it plays well.

Guys get cut every week. No deadweight allowed.

Every coach wants his players to hustle. None stresses it more than Marinelli. It's apparent if you've been watching this unit closely. What its players lack in talent, especially on the defensive line, they make up for in effort.

Earlier this season, Caesar Rayford rushed the passer and helped make the tackle 30 yards downfield. This happens frequently.

It's the Marinelli standard. "A lot of coaches talk about it, but we're stubborn about it," Marinelli said. "We stress effort and hustle every day. We grade you on it. "You can have three sacks, but if you also have three 'loafs,' I'll give you a D for that game."

Talk to the defensive linemen on this team and they'll tell you it's better to be physically beaten on a play than for Marinelli to catch you loafing. "If you get body-slammed by three offensive linemen, he expects you to get up and chase the ball, when you get up," Jason Vega said.

That's why adding Austin is a shrewd move with no downside.

Austin has no choice but to fit in. In this case, peer pressure is a positive. If every other player on defense gives maximum effort, then anyone who doesn't sticks out and brings shame to himself.

"It's just effort," Marinelli said. "When everyone is giving great effort, every play you put yourself in position to make good things happen.

"And when players start seeing what can happen when you play hard, they start taking it upon themselves to challenge each other and call each other out."

And that's why Austin will either play hard, or he won't be here. It isn't complicated.