While the Dallas Cowboys have one of the league's best outside linebackers in DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer has never been able to live up to expectations opposite him. The only other outside linebackers on the roster are Victor Butler and Alex Albright. The coaching staff obviously doesn't trust Butler to play more as a pass rusher for some reason, and that is a shame because he shows flashes of good football, while Albright is a complete unknown.
If Ware were to ever go down to an injury, the Cowboys pass rush would be in a lot of trouble. Having Butler step in for Spencer is one thing, but having Spencer and Butler as your starting outside linebackers might be a bit too much to ask for. In a 3-4 defensive scheme where the pass rush comes from the outside linebackers, losing Ware would be disastrous.
This is where Melvin Ingram comes into play. He has been one of my clear cut targets for the Cowboys with their No. 14 overall pick. Many will complain that Ingram would be a "situational" pass rusher, but the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers have scored big with similar players in the first round.
The Giants drafted Jason Pierre-Paul with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, and the 49ers drafted Aldon Smith with the 7th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Neither started right away, but both made huge a impact early in their careers, and both are future defensive cornerstones. Ingram may not have the same size as Pierre-Paul or Smith, but he is a dynamic pass rusher. If he somehow falls to Dallas, he'd be the perfect player to upgrade their pass rush.
- 23 years old
- 6'1, 264
- South Carolina
- Defensive End
Ingram started off as a linebacker at South Carolina. He appeared in 12 games as a freshman, and also returned kickoffs. That type of athleticism is why he is so appealing. His versatility makes him such an intriguing player for the type of creative scheme Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan implements.
In 2008, Ingram broke his foot in a widely reported off-the-field incident that carried rumors of him breaking it on a X-Box gaming console. We don't know the specifics of the cause of the injury, so there is some concern there about what really happened. Regardless, he had to sit out the 2008 season.
He came back in 2009 and really began to flash some of the tremendous ability he has. Only appearing sparingly in 13 games, he racked up 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks. 2010 is where he truly broke out, moving to defensive end. Ingram registered 9 sacks, which led the team. South Carolina moved him all over the field to get mismatches, and it worked. Ingram lined up at defensive end, linebacker and defensive tackle.
When he finally earned a starting role on the defensive line in 2010, he made the most of his well earned opportunity. Ingram racked up 8.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss as a senior. He looks to be a late-bloomer, a pass rusher finally starting to grow into his role. Not being an experienced starter may bother Cowboys fans, but I believe Ingram has his best football ahead of him.
- 4.79 40 yard dash
- 28 bench reps
- 34.5 inch vertical jump
- 109 inch broad jump
- 6.83 three cone drill
- 4.18 20 yard shuttle
At the combine in February, he put on full display his combination of athleticism and pass rushing ability. Ingram has the game tape, but he also does well in the combine drills. Not every draft prospect shines in these drills, but it is important to see the athleticism in pass rushers. It is comforting knowing that Ingram has the game tape, but also can perform well in the "Underwear Olympics".
A video profile on Ingram from SB Nation's YouTube channel:
Sport Science: Melvin Ingram
- Muscular and lean body type
- Can be a dynamic pass rusher
- Great in pass coverage, always a threat to intercept the pass and take it to the house
- Good burst and quickness
- Great footwork
- Good with his hands
- Excellent instincts
- Plays with good balance and pad level
- Excellent pass rushing moves
- Strong work ethic
- Smart player who will only get better with experience
- Potential leader
- Size might be a problem in the NFL
- Raw player, but the upside is there
- Has pass rushing moves, but can still improve on his bull rush
- Will get too high in stance, needs to lower that in certain situations
- Needs to continue improving his strength
Personally, I would love to see the Cowboys get Ingram. After his combine workout, I wasn't quite sure he would fall to Dallas, but it is still a possibility. Teams might be scared off due to his size, but I hope the Cowboys don't make the same mistake they did in 2007. They passed on the smaller player, LaMarr Woodley, to choose the bigger Spencer.
For whatever reason, Dallas tends to stay away from smaller prospects. They hardly ever draft smaller and quicker wide receivers. The Cowboys also prefer cornerbacks with size, but sometimes make an exception if the player is exceptionally gifted. As for pass rushers, they like the bigger prospects.
Because of their focus on size, Ingram may not be a preferred target for the Cowboys. He wasn't a Valley Ranch invite, but they did scout South Carolina games this year. All I know is that Ingram would be the type of pass rusher that would be dominant for the Cowboys in passing situations. He offers you the upside to eventually become a full time starter down the road, replacing Spencer. It also allows the Cowboys some breathing room if Ware were to ever go down.
I am all in for Ingram, I have been for months. Will the Cowboys take the leap of faith with him? Unfortunately we won't know that until draft night.