IRVING, Texas — When the Dallas Cowboys signed veteran defensive tackle Henry Melton in March, they decided he wouldn’t become a full participant until training camp.
Melton, a 2012 Pro Bowler, only played in three games last season for Chicago before tearing his left ACL. But during the free agency process, his surgically-repaired knee passed all of Dallas’ tests.
"We’re going to keep it strictly headed towards training camp, so I can really get as strong as possible," Melton said Tuesday. "I feel great. It’s a lot different when bullets start flying around you, but at this moment, I feel great."
Melton is expected to start for the Cowboys at the three-technique tackle position. Some say that spot is the most important in Rod Marinelli’s Tampa-2 scheme.
Jason Hatcher played it last season and it led to a career-high 11 sacks and his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Hall of Famer Warren Sapp played it for Marinelli when Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl in 2002.
Melton was Marinelli’s three-technique in 2011 and 2012, totaling 13 sacks in 29 games.
"He demands you to be disruptive," Melton said. "Not everybody can do it. The guys that can are very special. He allows you to thrive and kind of free-range out there."
Melton was participating in individual drills during Tuesday’s OTA session at Valley Ranch, however, he was held out of the 11-on-11 team portion.
With Hatcher now in Washington and DeMarcus Ware in Denver, Melton and several unproven defensive linemen will attempt to replace the two Pro Bowlers. While Melton hasn’t been around long, the 2009 fourth-round pick is already feeling good about what the Cowboys have along their defensive front.
"There’s a lot of athletic guys, we got," Melton said. "There aren’t a lot of big names on it, but it’s like I told them before, it’s about making a name for yourself. No one knew who I was when I first started, so it’s all about making a name for yourself. Looking around this room, there’s a lot of guys that are going to."
"We got a lot of talent on the defense, a lot of names that people don’t know that are going to make names, so I’m excited to play with them," Melton added. "I think we got a lot of key components to really get it done."