Hatcher: Last year was most fun I've had

Hatcher: Last year was most fun I've had

Published Jun. 5, 2012 5:05 p.m. ET

IRVING -- Jason Hatcher only made one start throughout his first 75 games in the NFL. But under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, last season was a breakout year for the Cowboys defensive end. Hatcher started 10-of-13 games in 2011, posting career highs in tackles (28) and sacks (4.5) while also recording his first career interception.

"I had fun. My role expanded," Hatcher said, referring to last season. "I worked my butt off and got to be a starter.

"I think last year was the most fun I had. Coach Ryan came in and gave me an opportunity and I took advantage of it. I'm just looking forward to having a better year this year than last year."

Hatcher's best game last season arguably came in a Week 2 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. In that start, Hatcher finished with four tackles and two sacks.

An improved secondary and another year in Ryan's system could mean an even better year for the 29-year-old who's entering his seventh season.

"The scheme of the defense is starting to jell," Hatcher said last Thursday. "It's starting to jell early and it's exciting to see."

Hatcher noted that the complexity of Ryan's scheme makes it essential to know where all players are lined up. According to Hatcher, a second year in that system will improve the comfort level for returning players, and being comfortable means playing fast.

"The second year, with the OTAs in there you can kind of slow down and learn it," he said. "I'm very excited to be where we're at as a defense at this point in OTAs."

Hatcher didn't want to take things any further than that, and he certainly didn't want to talk about his owner saying the window is closing on the Cowboys' chances of reaching the Super Bowl.

"What Jerry speaks on, that's Jerry. I'm trying to keep my job," Hatcher said with a laugh. "Whatever Jerry says is right in my book. I don't know what he said. I don't keep up with the media. But whatever he said, he's right. He's the owner of this team, so I'm not getting caught up in what Jerry says. I'm just a small fish in the pond. I'm just trying to do my job."

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