Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had a 278-word response for what should have been an easy question to answer.

Jones was asked if he had any regrets about not addressing the Cowboys’ defensive line last off-season.

After 275 words, Jones finally got to the point: “We were compromised.”

For a man who is a marketing genius, that was an understatement.

Jones called the unit a strength a year ago, but injuries depleted the Cowboys’ line in their transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base defense.

All told, the Cowboys used 20 different defensive linemen throughout the season. Only one projected 2013 defensive line starter is under contract for the 2014 season: end DeMarcus Ware. And he’s coming off the worst season of his career.

That leaves the Cowboys on the hunt for defensive line depth, and that search continues next week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

With the NFL draft about three months away, the Cowboys still have time to find help. But what kind of defensive lineman is the right fit?

The Cowboys’ scheme is predicated on the front four getting pressure on the quarterback. And that didn’t happen nearly enough last season, leaving the secondary hung out to dry in the club’s zone-based Tampa 2.

Jones said the Cowboys desire quick defensive linemen in their scheme more so than bulky players.

In the Cowboys’ previous 3-4, size mattered. But their 4-3 scheme is all about getting to the quarterback as fast as possible.

“Let’s say what is essential, and it’s more essential to be quick and have a real active mentality, have a very active motor in the vernacular of football,” Jones said, “and that’s the biggest thing you look for in a defensive lineman for us.”

Jones loves to work in the phrase quick-twitch defensive lineman. He’s talking about athletes with quick-twitch muscles who have explosive strength.

That’s the ideal player for the Cowboys’ three-technique (when the defensive tackle lines up opposite the outside shoulder of a guard). And the club might have found the right man for the job while at the Senior Bowl a few weeks ago in Mobile, Ala.

That’s where the Cowboys’ scouts and coaches were able to get an up-close view of Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He’s not going to fit many 3-4 schemes at 6-1 and 288 pounds, but he is what the Cowboys desire.

Donald’s first step is special. He takes off as if he’s been shot out of a cannon, which is a big reason why he led the nation last season with 281/2 tackles for loss.

“The three-technique, that’s the position for me. I feel like I’m an inside guy,” Donald said. “Size doesn’t mean nothing. If you can play the game of football, you can play.”

So don’t worry too much about defensive linemen’s height and weight at the NFL combine. Pay more attention to their 40-yard dash times.

This should be the season the Cowboys emphasize their defensive line. Rod Marinelli, the club’s defensive line coach, has taken over the defensive coordinator title from Monte Kiffin.

Marinelli wants a rotation of seven to eight quality defensive linemen he can keep fresh during games.

That was missing a year ago, when the Cowboys were bringing in a player off the street seemingly every week to fill a hole. Eighteen defensive linemen logged at least one tackle for the Cowboys last season, twice as many as in 2012.

This time, Jones can’t ignore the defensive line like he did a year ago.

“We thought we could be pretty selective before we took a defensive lineman last year,” Jones said. “But that just shows that you can feel good about where you are as a team and a position, and then very quickly get in a pretty compromised spot relative to injury.