Dallas defense begs question: Who are these guys?
IRVING, Texas (AP) — Jeremy Mincey, meet Eli Manning.
Or maybe that’s a conversation that can happen in the backfield Sunday if the Dallas defensive end gets his first sack when Manning and the New York Giants visit the Cowboys.
Manning meant no disrespect, but he just didn’t recognize a lot of the names when he started watching video of a defense that doesn’t have DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher or Sean Lee.
It’s the same unit that just held Super Bowl champion Seattle to season lows in all three yardage categories and first downs — and reason No. 2 behind NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray for why the Cowboys (5-1) are tied for the league’s best record.
“When I was just looking at the film, didn’t quite know who everybody was because for a number of years you had some staples with Ware and Hatcher,” Manning said. “I did notice that they’re all playing very, very well.”
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said during training camp the Cowboys could have a “no-name type defense,” so is it working out that way? And if so, is that OK?
“I don’t care,” said linebacker Justin Durant, who signed as a free agent for depth a year ago but has played much more of a leading role this season. “We can be the no-namers. As long as we’re winning, I don’t care.”
Mincey actually fits the profile better than most because technically he’s the one who replaced Ware at right end. The former Jacksonville starter who played in the Super Bowl with Denver last season signed with the Cowboys not long after they dumped Ware in a salary cap move.
Not only does Mincey lack the name recognition, but he has 101 fewer career sacks.
“Ware’s as phenomenal a player as they come, but you can’t count out the heart of a man, either,” Mincey said. “I play to win. That same spirit is just moving around the team now. The ‘W’ is the biggest stat of the day for me.”
Dallas’ sack total of seven is among the lowest in the league, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s group slowed St. Louis long enough for the offense to rally from a 21-0 deficit while also getting a touchdown on an interception return from Bruce Carter.
The Cowboys shut out Drew Brees for a half a year after New Orleans embarrassed the league’s worst defense, and they never let Seattle’s Russell Wilson feel comfortable a week after he threw for 201 yards, ran for another 122 and accounted for three touchdowns against Washington.
“We take pride in our 22 men, 22 guys contributing in different phases of the game,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “Whenever your number’s called, you have to go out there and make the play. You’ve got a lot of guys counting on you.”
The closest thing to a big name at the moment is linebacker Rolando McClain, a former top-10 pick who was traded for a late-round draft pick not long before training camp following Lee’s season-ending knee injury.
McClain is the leading tackler and the only Dallas player with more than one interception (he has two). Durant is second in tackles, followed by undrafted free agent Barry Church, a safety in his fifth year. Next is Carter, a linebacker who will miss his third straight game against the Giants (3-3) with a thigh injury.
Tyrone Crawford leads in quarterback pressures with 15 — two more than Mincey — but like Mincey doesn’t have a sack. Henry Melton, another free agent pickup in the offseason, is starting to show up more as he recovers from a groin injury. Even in limited playing time, he’s the team leader with 1 1/2 sacks.
So maybe this no-name thing works in a different sort of way.
“It’d be harder to game plan a bunch of unknowns,” Mincey said. “You don’t know who’s going to rise to the occasion next, so I think it’s a special thing.”
And maybe it gives him a few more chances to introduce himself.
NOTES: DE Lavar Edwards rejoined the roster Friday, two days after he was waived to make room for T Tony Hills, who was picked up off Miami’s practice squad. LB Korey Toomer was waived to make room for Edwards. ... McClain returned to practice after missing two days to attend to custody issues involving his sons in Alabama.
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