The Cowboys felt good heading into last season about a defensive front that featured nose tackle Jay Ratliff and tackles Jason Hatcher and Kenyon Coleman.

That optimism quickly faded.

By the time the season came to an end Ratliff, Hatcher and Coleman managed to start three games together. Three different players started at nose tackle and four players started at the tackle spots as injuries robbed this group of any consistency.

Hatcher stood above the rest. He started every game and remains a player on the rise. But injuries knocked Ratliff and Coleman off the competitive map.

Ratliff missed six games and watched his statistics decline for a fourth consecutive season. He failed to record a sack for the first time in his career and got into a verbal altercation with owner Jerry Jones after one game.

A bad knee and a torn triceps limited Coleman to seven games and his worst statistical season in seven years.

Ratliff and Coleman failed to rank among the top 15 tacklers on a defense that ranked No. 22 against the rush. Josh Brent did a nice job of filling in for Ratliff, but he was placed on the non-football illness list for the final four games after he was at the wheel of an accident that took the life of his friend and teammate, Jerry Brown Jr. His future is in doubt.

Sean Lissemore, Marcus Spears and rookie Tyrone Crawford were solid, but combined for only two sacks among them.