The Dallas Cowboys have assembled a lot of defensive linemen -- 16 at current count. But what have they done in the NFL? What can the Cowboys realistically expect out of this group of players?
I decided to turn to Pro Football Focus for the following stats. I listed the players alphabetically. I noted if they were rookies, with NO NFL experience, or whether they are coming off a year of being injured. I then listed their BEST year in terms of sacks, followed by their WORST year in which they played at least some games. In the last column is their CAREER sack totals, with the number of years it took to accumulate that number in parentheses.
Needless to say, this is a RAG-TAG group. There may be some potential here, but there hasn't been much in the way of performance. Here are some notes.
* Anthony Spencer leads the way with a peak of 11 sacks in 2012. But he's coming off a serious knee condition, with most projecting him to start the season on the PUP list and be inactive for at least the first 6 games.
* Henry Melton is next highest with an 8 sack and 7 sack year, but he's also coming off a season lost to a serious leg injury. Who knows when he'll practice, or how close he will be to his peak 2012 form.
* 6 rookies are on the list -- DeMarcus Lawrence, Ben Gardner, Ken Bishop, Martez Wilson, Davon Coleman, and Chris Whaley. Who knows how many will make the team. Only DeMarcus Lawrence is a lock. The others are going to be very challenged to make the roster, even if the team goes long here and keeps 9 or 10 D-linemen. Does anyone see any pass rushing demons on this list (outside Lawrence)?
* Jeremy Mincey had one fine year with 8 sacks, but it was 3 years ago, in 2011! Last year he mustered 3 sacks. Which version are the Cowboys getting?
* George Selvie also had a fine year with 8 sacks, and he would seem to have as good a chance as any to attain that level in 2014, but will that hold if there isn't much pressure elsewhere on the line? Selvie also had 3 very mediocre years elsewhere.
* Ben Bass, who is also sometimes described in promising terms, has stayed healthy for only 26 NFL plays in two years.
* Caesar Rayford hasn't done much better, with only 147 snaps last year, and a trip to the practice squad.
* That leaves Amobi Okoye, with 17 career sacks in 6 seasons. But he's also injured, not practicing, and coming off a year when he was out of the NFL. Will he be healthy enough to even make the team?
I thought about compiling this post BEFORE Sean Lee went down for the season. With that downer to swallow, it seems like piling on to put out these stats. But, this is what Dallas is going into the season with. It's not the line that Jimmy Johnson assembled (without a salary cap) that got us back-to-back Super Bowls in the 90's.
Best case scenario? Melton is healthy, and gets his 8 sacks at DT. Mincey/Lawrence combine for 10-12 sacks from RDE, Selvie/Spencer combine for 10-12 sacks from LDE. And somehow the Cowboys get another 12 sacks from somewhere else, including Crawford, Okoye, the other rookies, and blitzing linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties. That would get us to 44, which would have tied us for 8th in the NFL last year.
Worst case scenario? Melton, Spencer, Okoye, and Mincey cannot match their NFL peaks, Lawrence is not strong enough as a rookie to get more than 5-6 sacks, and Selvie cannot repeat last year without help on the other side. Dallas remains mired near the bottom of the NFL with sack totals in the low-30s.
I have no idea which is more likely. But here are the numbers:
|Player||Notable||Year||# of plays||High sacks||Year||# of plays||Low sacks||Total career sacks (years)|
|Ben Bass||2012||26||zero||2013||zero||zero||zero (1)|
|Tyrone Crawford||2012||303||zero||2013||zero||zero||zero (1)|
|Jeremy Mincey||2011||974||8||2013||353||3||19 (4)|
|Caesar Rayford||2013||147||zero||zero (1)|
|Chris Whaley||Rookie - injured|