That was my thought on Sunday night, while I watched Marion Barber, barreling out of holes cleaved by Dallas's mammoth offensive line. The NFL is a passing league. I've said it before, and I'll say it until things change. But we all basically know how it goes, right? If a team can run, it runs. If a team can't run, it passes. I'm generalizing, I know. But still, most non-West Coast offense teams would prefer to run effectively most of the time, and then use the pass play on long downs and to hit big plays.
And that's why Thompson drafted Justin Harrell. The young man is a mountain. He's the kind of kid built to hold the middle and quash running games. The idea was-- draft the next John Henderson, the enormous (both tall and big) DT for Jacksonville. Use a rotation of him, Jolly and Pickett to stop the run. Get pressure with KGB, Jenkins and Kampman, and have Hawk, Barnett, Woodson and Harris cover the field. Force teams into doing something they don't like to do, and create lots of bad throws and punts. It all makes sense. The problem is Harrell hasn't been able to stay healthy. (And, apparently wasn't dedicated enough in the offseason to stay in excellent shape.) And that's a serious issue for a DT. It's one of the most physically bruising positions in the league. Every play you're full on running into another 300 pound man or two. Hopefully, Harrell's injury issues will subside, and he'll learn the value of taking care of himself. Though if there's something to the "soft tissue" theory (that broken bones are likely one-offs, but a pattern of "soft tissue" injuries will likely continue ad nauseum) we could be in big trouble.
Anyhow, the point is that the last game was proof of the value of excellent defensive tackles, and that there was reasonable method behind TT's first-round madness 18 months ago.
Now, I'm not saying that stopping the run is the end-all be-all of defense in the NFL. Actually, passing in the NFL is so advanced that even if you can't run a lick, you still have a chance to win a game. Hell, the Vikings defense has been proving that ever since they picked up Pat Williams. Or take a look at this Sunday's opponent Tampa Bay. Last week they had Brian Griese pass the ball 67 times because their running game was so pathetic, but they still managed to win. Of course, that's largely because the Bears' D ran out of gas, and kept retaliating against the Bucs' dirty tricks and getting flagged for it, but I digress.