Broaddus Breakdown: Defensive line

Seventh in a series breaking down the Cowboys by position (previous entries):

Roster locks: Jay Ratliff, Igor Olshansky, Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher

Good bet: Junior Siavii

On the bubble: Sean Lissemore, Marcus Dixon

Long shots: Junior Aumavae, Lorenzo Washington

Jay Ratliff might not fit the mold of a traditional nose tackle, but the way he plays with leverage, strength and movement causes problems for the majority of centers in the NFL. He’s active, he’s relentless, he’s just darn hard to block. He’s just as effective against the run or pass. He’s a sideline-to-sideline player. The only knock against him is his size, but he more than makes up for it.

Igor Olshansky is known as a run stuffer, but he’s not a bad pass-rusher. He’s powerful and has the ability to hold the point of attack. If he has a deficiency, it’s struggling with his lateral play, but he’s good at the point of attack and moving forward. And the guy gets a push as a pass rusher.

There’s nothing flashy about Marcus Spears. He’s been steady, but you’ve always expected more out of the former first-round pick. He has his moments of solid play against the run but doesn’t give you much as a pass-rusher. The fact the Cowboys haven’t extended his contract gives you a strong clue of what they think about him. They like having him, as long as it’s at their price.

Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher are very good nickel players, run or pass. They’re both good athletes, play with good technique and pursue to the ball very well. They give you something as upfield pass rushers, particularly with Bowen as an inside rusher. They’re both playing under one-year tenders and could earn lucrative extensions with continued productive play, but I don’t see either challenging for Spears’ starting job this season.

Junior Siavii was much better early in the season than late. He showed the ability to give you 10 or 12 good plays, but that’s about his limit. He’s a try-hard, high-effort guy who holds his ground, but he’s not going to make many plays. Bill Parcells would have referred to him as a hold-the-fort player. The Cowboys should eventually try to upgrade at backup nose tackle.

I like the little bit I’ve seen of Sean Lissemore. He made an impression with his relentlessness during pass-rush drills in minicamp.