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When Jimmy Johnson became head coach in 1989, he retained the 4-3 but discarded the flex defense that Landry had used for many years. Johnson’s defense relied on speed more than size. The Cowboys continued to use a version of this 4-3 until the third year of Bill Parcells‘ tenure.
Since 2005, Dallas has run the 3-4, which features larger linemen and larger linebackers. The Cowboys have spent a number of draft picks trying to find inside and outside linebackers as well as defensive linemen to fit the system.
Trivia question for the day: who were the last defensive linemen drafted when the Cowboys still used the 4-3?
Here’s a hint: The Cowboys did not draft a single defensive lineman between 2002 and 2004.
Check out the Facebook page for the answer.
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More about the Cowboys’ use of the 4-3:
In 2004, the Cowboys’ starters along the defensive line included DE Greg Ellis, DE Marcellus Wiley, DT Leonardo Carson, and DT La’Roi Glover. Glover moved to nose tackle in 2005, while Ellis remained at end. Ellis then moved to outside linebacker in 2006.
Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series
Four Cowboys have worn #98. Two of these players were linebackers, one was a defensive lineman, and one has been converted from defensive line to linebacker.
Greg Ellis, DE/LB, North Carolina, 1998-
Statistics: Ellis has recorded 72 sacks and 367 tackles in his career.
Accolades: He has been named to one Pro Bowl.
Longevity: He is currently playing in his 11th season.
Intangibles: Ellis ranks second on the list of official sacks, though he hasn’t come close to matching the true totals of Harvey Martin, Too Tall Jones, Randy White (or probably even George Andrie or Bob Lilly). Ellis can be a good pass rusher, and though he is a bit of a complainer, he has not cause off-the-field problems.
Godfrey Myles, LB, Florida, 1991-96
Statistics: Myles recorded 111 tackles and had two interceptions with the Cowboys.
Longevity: He played six seasons with Dallas.
Intangibles: Myles was one of the most versatile backup linebackers in team history. In 1995, he was the backup to Robert Jones at middle linebacker, Darrin Smith at weakside linebacker, and Dixon Edwards at strongside linebacker (thanks Dallas Cowboys Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to America’s Team).
Ken Tippins, LB, Middle Tennessee St., 1989
Statistics: Tippins made six tackles in 1989.
Longevity: He was active for six games during the 1989 season.
Intangibles: He was signed as a free agent and played in part of the 1989 season before moving on to Atlanta, where he became a starter.
Mitch Willis, DT, Southern Methodist, 1990
Statistics: Willis recorded two tackles with the Cowboys.
Longevity: He was active for four games with the Cowboys.
Intangibles: Willis played with the Raiders and Falcons before joining the Cowboys in 1990, his last year in the NFL.
Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #98.
- Greg Ellis (96%, 68 Votes)
- Godfrey Myles (3%, 2 Votes)
- Ken Tippins (1%, 1 Votes)
- Mitch Willis (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 71
My Vote: Ellis
Ellis has been in a situation similar to Jim Jeffcoat, who was certainly not a bust as a first-round pick in 1983 but who played on some bad Dallas teams during his prime. The Cowboys tried to find bookend defensive ends to provide a consistent pass rush in the 4-3, but the team never found anyone to complement Ellis. He moved to linebacker in 2006 but tore his Achilles just as he was starting to shine. He made the Pro Bowl and was named Comeback Player of the Year in 2007.