vocally expressed his displeasure with Dallas's offense at a recent practice. (Sharon Ellman/AP)
You may not know his name, but Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher is one of the NFL's most disruptive interior linemen. In 2012, as a 3-4 end in Rob Ryan's defense, he racked up four sacks, 11 quarterback hits, and 20.5 QB hurries. Pretty impressive for a guy bulling through the middle of the line. In 2013, through two games as a tackle in Monte Kiffin's 4-3 scheme, he already has two sacks and seven QB hurries.
Now he's disrupting his own quarterback -- and not just in practice drills. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Hatcher blasted Tony Romo in practice this week when Romo audibled away from a designed run play and threw a pass that led to a pick-six the other way. "Hatcher and others have been frustrated with Romo audibling away from runs," Rapoport wrote on Twitter.
The Cowboys have run the ball just 31 times to 92 passing attempts this season, and they face the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. The Rams tied with the Broncos for the NFL lead in sacks with 52 in 2012, they have six this season, and the Dallas offensive line doesn't protect the pass well. Romo has just one interception in 2013, but he ranks 21st in Football Outsiders' efficiency metrics among qualifying quarterbacks. Clearly, more is expected of the man who signed a six-year, $108-million contract extension in March.
Because of the inconsistencies in Dallas' offense and the variable quality of his pass protection, Romo has been playing through rib injuries since he was hurt in the season-opening win over the New York Giants. But as Hatcher said in a team meeting this week per Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN Dallas, the Cowboys must be singularly committed to winning.
Hatcher spoke about overall team improvement and playing for more than a paycheck in an F-bomb-filled soliloquy, according to the report.Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett had different veterans talk to the team in the preseason, but Hatcher has taken it upon himself to take it to a different level. He's got the performance and stats to back it up, and we'll see what the effects are.
"All positive," Garrett told the NFL Network's Mike Silver. "You want your leaders to lead. It's good for people like him to speak up."