On Tuesday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that it was frustrating to watch former Cowboys defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff play for the Bears because he would have never left Dallas if the team hadn’t been led to believe he was too injured to play this season.
Jones may be upset, but Ratliff’s absence has had its positive upside for the Cowboys. Jason Hatcher was plugged into the three-technique tackle spot Ratliff would have occupied and he’s responded with nine sacks and 23 quarterback pressures on a line that has seen several players go down (including Hatcher, who missed a game with a stinger) with injuries over the course of the season.
Had Ratliff been healthy heading into the season, Hatcher would have been playing nose tackle in the 4-3 front defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is installing. The player at that spot does a lot of dirty work to help set the other tackle up to make plays and Hatcher said he wasn’t going to be down with that program.
“Horrible,” Hatcher said, via ESPNDallas.com. “Horrible. Horrible. I’m not a nose tackle. I probably would’ve been asking to be traded or something because I don’t like to play the nose. I’m not going to say I’m glad Rat is gone because I wish we had him because he’s a helluva football player, but God works in mysterious ways and I’m at the position. I’m making plays and having a helluva year, so I’ve got to keep it up.”
It’s a good time to have a helluva year. Not only has he given the leaky Cowboys defense someone to rely on, he’s also heading into free agency with a nice head of steam. His age, 32 at the start of next season, will impact the contract he winds up getting, but Hatcher still figures to cash in on a stronger 2013 season than many people might have expected.