If there has been one common problem which has plagued the Dallas Cowboys since 2010, it has been their lack of a consistent pass rush. Though they have spent first and second round picks on defensive ends since then, no one has been able to be the solution.
Whether due to suspension, injuries, or flat out under performance, the Dallas Cowboys defensive line has simply not gotten it done in terms of pass rush. There is a slight glimmer of hope going into 2017, however.
On the interior of the defensive line, the Dallas Cowboys now feature one of the brightest young tackles in the entire league. Former third round pick Maliek Collins came away with five sacks during his rookie season, outperforming even the wildest of fan expectations.
Now a year into his career, it is right to expect him to continue to produce at a high level. For a defensive tackle, though, it’s rare to see 6-8 sacks per season. For this reason, relying on Collins to be your number one pass rusher wouldn’t be a great idea.
Two other players will certainly be leaned on heavily: Demarcus Lawrence and David Irving.
Both Lawrence and Irving have had success in the past, with Lawrence tallying 8 sacks in 2015 and Irving dominating for stretches of 2016. Each has struggled doing it with consistency, something that will need to change this season if Dallas hopes to take the next step.
A few months ago, I wrote about Irving’s ability to rush the passer in great detail. In my opinion, Irving is a raw chess-piece along this defensive line. But with some coaching and practice, he can and will become the best and most polished rusher on the roster.
Now, Irving is to serve a four game suspension to start the season, which will certainly hinder his ability to lead the team in sacks. Still I expect him to be a force this year against both the run and the pass when given the opportunity.
Lawrence had his best game of 2016 against the Minnesota Vikings, where he took advantage of some poor offensive tackle play. Struggling with back issues the past couple of seasons, its been rare for us to see a healthy Demarcus Lawrence.
Based off what I have seen so far during training camp, and knowing that this is a contract year, 2017 may be the time for Lawrence to take that next step.
Do I believe the Cowboys will feature one of the stronger pass rushes in the entire league? Of course not. But, I do think that with the help of these three talented rushmen, the Cowboys can come through with some timely and important sacks and hurries in 2017.