Dallas Cowboys Top 5 Players to Break Out In 2013: #3 Jason Hatcher

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Continuing my series on the Top 5 Dallas Cowboys to break out in 2013, I am moving on to #3, Jason Hatcher. I got sidetracked from completing my series by covering Mini-Camp. The Dallas Cowboys staff writers have also done their projections: you can see them here.  Only one of  my 5 selections made their lists. (Hatcher was selected by Rowan Kavner). It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

JasonHatcher1The Road To Success: Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle Jason Hatcher, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana and was raised in Jena. He attended Jena High School where he lettered in football and basketball. As a senior, he helped his team to a 10-3 record and earned All-State honors after catching 28 passes for 1,028 yards as a wide receiver and tight end.

Following a colorful high school career Dallas Cowboys DT Jason Hatcher attended Grambling State University where he majored in physical education. As a true freshman, Hatcher was ruled academically ineligible for failing to meet the NCAA academic requirements. In 2002, he was granted a medical redshirt after rupturing his right ACL.

As a sophomore in 2003, Jason Hatcher started at tight end and caught one pass for 14 yards and a two-point conversion before the decision to convert him to defensive end midway through the season. Following the switch, he earned a starting job. Jason Hatcher recorded 13 tackles, three sacks and one pass broken up. In 2004, as a junior, he played his first full season at defensive end.  He finished the season with 33 tackles, (10 for a loss) and five sacks.

As a senior, Dallas Cowboys DT/DE Jason Hatcher helped his team win the conference title with an undefeated record (9-0) and a mythical co-Black college football national championship (11-1 overall), while having a break out year of his own. Jason Hatcher amassed 65 tackles and 10 sacks. He was named an all-Southwestern Athletic Conference selection. He finished his Grambling  career with 111 tackles, (31.5 for a loss) and 18.5 sacks.

Professional career:

JasonHatcherJason Hatcher was drafted in the 3rd round, 92nd overall, in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. His selection  was questioned at the time because of his lack of production in college, but Bill Parcells was high on his athletic ability and potential for their 3–4 defense.

As a Dallas Cowboys rookie, Jason Hatcher played in 14 games, missing two with a sprained ankle. For the season, he recorded 13 tackles, one for a loss and 2.5 sacks. In 2007, he played in all 16 games and recorded 35 tackles, three for losses and two sacks, while forcing one fumble. In 2008, Hatcher recorded 36 tackles, one for a loss, one pass broken up and one sack. In 2009, he played in all 16 games and recorded 29 tackles, one sack and one pass breakup.

For the most part of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Hatcher was a reserve player (his first start was in 2010) and seen as a disappointment, until he resigned with the team in 2011 after not receiving much interest in the free agent market. That season with the arrival of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, he established himself as one of the team starters at defensive end ahead of Marcus Spears and improved his pass rushing abilities, compiling a career high in tackles (36) and sacks (4.5).

Jason Hatcher, Joe FlaccoIn 2012, Jason Hatcher was the Dallas Cowboys best defensive lineman and the only one to start all 16 games, registering 4 sacks and career highs in tackles and quarterback pressures. I honestly believe that if Hall Of Fame Head Coach Bill Parcells had stayed with the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Hatcher would have developed much faster. (Hatchers’ career accolades are courtesy of Wikipedia).

So far this season, the Dallas Cowboys have primarily used him as the 1 technique in Monte Kiffins Tampa 2 defense, but don’t be surprised if  Jason Hatcher also gets some snaps rushing the passer from one of the end positions. I strongly believe that Jason Hatcher is better suited for the 4-3 defense and will have his best season ever playing along side Pro Bowl DT Jay Ratliff. In a recent interview, Jason Hatcher shared his thoughts on the subject:

“I want to be able to play across the board if need be. If somebody goes down, it’s the more you can do in this league. If they need me to go out and play the five-technique, the nine, I’m trying to play it all. You definitely have to be versatile in this defense, so I want to learn the one-technique, the three-technique, all across the board.“I want to know what to do so if somebody goes down maybe they need to say, ‘Hatch go play the five or the nine for a game.’ I’m looking forward to this defense. We all are.”

JasonHatcher5Jason Hatcher went on  to say that learning all of these positions, from Dallas Cowboys veteran defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, is a good thing. He said he keeps in constant contact with his coach via his cell phone.  When talking about his new defensive line coach, Hatcher referred to Marinelli as “a legend in this game.” Rod Marinelli spent 10 seasons coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive line before becoming the HC of the Detroit Lions in 2006. Rod Marinelli then coached the Chicago Bears’ defensive line during the last four seasons. (The Chicago Bears had a top 10 defense under Rod Marinelli.)

“He coached Warren Sapp, one of the best who ever did it, so every day I’m either texting him or asking him, ‘Coach, how was today’s practice? What do I need to work on?’ He’ll text me back and say either ‘more get-off [or] better hands,” Hatcher said.

“With a guy like that you soak up all you can for him. I’m looking forward to seeing how I play this year.” 

 

When asked if he thought the Dallas Cowboys would give him an extension he said,

“I hope so. I’m sure I want to be back, but you can’t make guys want you. You have to go out there and perform. Sometimes it’s a number thing and sometimes it’s a money thing. Hopefully I’ll be back. I love the state I’m in, I love the organization, I love my teammates, so I’m going to go out here and play my butt off. That’s what they pay me to do, so they’re paying me this year to play my butt off and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to worry about a contract at all. I’m looking forward to the 2013 season.”

Jason Hatcher, said he took it as a compliment that the Dallas Cowboys didn’t use a draft pick to select a defensive lineman in the 2013 NFL draft.

“You guys say I’m getting long in the tooth, but that goes to show you that I still have what it takes,” Hatcher said. “I have to go out there and do my job, whatever my role is I’m going to go out there and play relentless and get to the football.”

 

Jason Hatcher wouldn’t say whether the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin wanted him to play at defensive tackle or defensive end in the team’s new Tampa 2  4-3 defense.

“We’re going to be all over the field,” Hatcher said. “We’re preparing this off-season to be the strength of our team.”

Hatcher said he feels like he has a lot left in the tank  to give the Dallas Cowboys. He said he feels like a “young 30″ by NFL standards, considering he didn’t see  much playing time early in his career.

“I tell guys all the time, the coaches know the first five years I didn’t play a whole lot, so I don’t have a lot of miles on my body,” Hatcher said. “Football is graded off of miles. You can be 30 years old but you can still have, I got like a twenty five-year body. I’m moving well and I’m feeling good, and I just have to go out there and play to the best of my ability.”

Film Study:

JasonHatcher6I was really impressed with the improvements in Jason Hatchers’ technique under Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The combination of him and defensive line coach Brian Baker brought out the potential that Bill Parcells saw in him. Anyone who understands football knows that the purpose of a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme is to hold up blockers in order to allow the outside linebackers to get to the QB. Playing defensive end in a 3-4 defense is not a glory position. If you look around the league there are not many 5 techniques putting up gaudy numbers. It’s the 4-3 defensive ends and the 3-4 outside line backers.

Denver Broncos v Dallas CowboysJason Hatcher has good feet and shows power at the point of attack. He moves well laterally and is a solid tackler. He is getting better at using his hands to shed blocks. He has good read and react skills and is doing a better job at knowing where the play is going. He has developed some more pass rush moves and does a nice job of splitting the gap. Playing along side Jay Ratliff, (who will command a double team) should allow Jason Hatcher to be able to get in to some one on one match ups.

MonteKiffinWith his superior upper body strength and improved technique I expect to see much better numbers this year. Keep in mind that this year, Jason Hatchers’ job is to rush the passer, not just hold up blocks. In a scheme that is designed to get after the QB from all across the line, I think Jason Hatcher will give quarterbacks fits in 2013. My only complaint with him is: I feel he needs to get off the snap quicker. If he can do this, he will be a top 5 defensive tackle in the NFL. He is after all, a Bill Parcells guy. I believe that Jason Hatcher has the potential to make the same type of impact under Monte Kiffin that Warren Sapp did.

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  • cowboys_24_7_365

    Good analysis Cas… I’ve always liked Hatcher but thought his talents better fit a 4-3. I hope you are right about him possibly having a Sapp like impact! We need big things from our front four this year! Skies the limit if they can be dominant!

    • cowboys_24_7_365  Thank You.  I always liked Hatcher too: I expect him to play more than just the 1 tech. I get the feeling they will move him around.

  • cjwright

    The thing I have always liked about Hatcher is that he just keeps getting better every year. If nothing else, you have to respect the effort that it must take to continue improving at his age.

    • cjwright I think the wade regime hindered his development. Parcells has a good eye for players. Still to this day the core of this team are his players. Hatcher is a perfect example of the progress stopping on this team.

      • cowboys_24_7_365

        Parcells had an amazing eye for talent… He turned this team around personel wise. Unfortunately the game out grew him when it came game planning.

        • cowboys_24_7_365  I am not sure I agree that Parcells lost a step: we at least had winning seasons under him. Look at the drop off since he left. I would take him over JG any day. He was still in the process of rebuilding when he left. I am certain that had he stayed, we would have that 6th Lombardi by now.

        • cowboys_24_7_365

          Believe me Cas… I’d still take Parcells over most coaches in the NFL. Loved the guy and still do!! When he left the Cowboys I was very sad because I really think HE believed the game had passed him by and in some respects it had. When it came to discipline, coaching philosophy, player analysis and motivation he was the best but it was obvious that his defensive schemes were getting too predictable. In today’s NFL talent isn’t always enough, scheme and game plan has to be solid and unpredictable! It’s an ever changing NFL!

        • cowboys_24_7_365 keep in mind, the Cowboys had 3 consecutive 5-11 seasons. Parcells took over and his 1st season he4 not only had the Cowboys in the playoffs, they had the #1 ranked defense in the NFL. They have not accomplished that since, except ofr a few weeks under RR prior to the injuries piling up. Parcells needed a little more time to finish building his roster.

    • cowboys_24_7_365

      He still thinks he’s 25 yrs old. That in itself is a good attitude! Gotta love it!

  • EFG

    Hatcher  has played better of the bench. Do you think he has improved enough to be effective starting?

    • cowboys_24_7_365

      They’ll move him around and it should have the same effect as coming off of the bench. He shouldn’t have a problem with conditioning.