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Spotlight On Dallas Cowboys Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence

An All-22 Film Breakdown of DeMarcus Lawrence's debut against Arizona.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

We finally got to see what the kid could do. DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas's prized defensive rookie finally made his season debut after suffering an injury in training camp. When I first saw the game I thought that it was the defensive line's best game, but Lawrence never really stood out to me. So how did the young man do? Let's go to the All-22 Film to find out.

Please note: I'm working on finding the proper format for these posts. Last week I had text, followed by pictures, this week I'm going to show the picture, followed by text describing it. If you could please comment and tell me which one you find easier to follow it would be much appreciated! One other thing, the play numbers are not the actual game plays, but the count of Lawrence's snaps. I've included the game time, quarter and down and distance to give context to when the play is happening.

Play 1: 12:51 in the first quarter, 1st and 10:

dlaw play 1 (1)

Here we see Lawrence lined up as the Weakside defensive end (WDE). I know there is a TE lined up to his side, but for this article we'll differentiate weak vs. strong side by how the defensive line is playing; in this case Lawrence is lined up next to the 3tech, hence the "weak" side.

dlaw 1 (3)

Welcome to the NFL rook! Lawrence gets triple teamed on his first ever NFL play as the guard, tackle and TE take him on and a WR comes down to block Bruce Carter.

dlaw play 1 (4)

To his credit D-Law is up to the challenge. Look at his legs and his head. You'll notice that he's lower than all three blockers taking him on. Something I noticed watching him is he plays with outstanding leverage; he is always lower than his opponent. With Lawrence taking on three blockers and Carter doing a good job holding the edge, Rolando McClain is in prime position to make a play.

dlaw play 1 (5)

The double team has finally moved Lawrence off his spot (but you'll notice it never knocked him back, only sideways), and one of the blockers has moved on to take on McClain. Carter is still holding the edge fairly well, but there is a gap developing for the RB to go through. On the edge you can just see Barry Church's knee; he has run to to edge of the formation and is now trying to adjust.

dlaw play 1 (6)

Lawrence is still right on the line of scrimmage. McClain has gotten off his block and makes the tackle, Carter has also gotten off his block and is there to clean up anything that McClain might miss. This was a really good play by the whole defense, but it was entirely set up by Lawrence holding his own against the initial triple team. That time spent bulking up has already come in handy.

Play 2: 12:15 left in the 1st quarter, 2nd and 5.

dlaw 2 (1)

On the next play of the game we again see Lawrence lined up as the SDE (this time based both on the offensive and defensive formation), with Arizona in the shotgun.

dlaw 2 (2)

D-Law gets a good initial burst off the ball. Again you can see the leverage he plays with in his legs, he's pushing the tackle back with power, but he's also still attacking the edge; you can see his helmet is to the outside of the tackle. Of course the whole point is basically moot as Henry Melton (yellow circle), puts an outstanding swim move on the guard and basically comes through the line untouched.

dlaw 2 (3)

Two things are happening here. First, the tackle has taken control of Lawrence and now has him moving backwards. Second, Carson Palmer is pooping himself as Melton barrels towards him.

dlaw 2 (4)

Here you can see that Lawrence has gotten off of the tackle's block, and has a good angle to cut off Carson Palmer if Melton is unable to make the tackle. So far the defense (especially the line), is playing lights out.

Play 3: 10:55 left in the 1st quarter, 1st and 10. Arizona throws the ball on first down. DeMarcus Lawrence is double teamed and gets no pressure on the play.

Play 4: 10:37 left in the 1st quarter, 1st and 10.

dlaw 4 (1)

This was an interesting play. As you can see above while all the other defensive linemen attack the line of scrimmage Lawrence just stands up. I'm not sure if he is playing some kind of contain or spy, or if he just didn't know what to do.

dlaw 4 (2)

It's not just that he was slow off the ball either; here we see the play fully developing and Lawrence has yet to move.

play 4 (3)

Which actually works out for the Cowboys. It looks like the Cardinals have completely lost track of Lawrence. Which is a good thing, because their running back has a huge lane to run through; Anthony Hitchens might be able to make a play but has a blocker coming towards him, however Lawrence is free to stuff the gap.

dlaw 4 (4)

He doesn't have to however, as Spencer beats his double team and enters the lane. Look at D-Law though. Remember earlier when I talked about him playing low? This was a heads up play; he sees the running back attempting to "get small", and run underneath Spencer's tackle, so Lawrence goes down to ensure the stop.

Play 5: 10:02 left in the 1st quarter. 2nd and 7.

dlaw 5 (1)

Here we see Lawrence lined up as the SDE, next to Terrell McClain playing the 1-tech (circled in red).

dlaw 5 (2)

This is a run going away from Lawrence. For those who wondered what made him special though, this picture is the answer. That bend everyone was talking about? Look at his body; he has barely crossed the line of scrimmage, and he is already nearly perpendicular to it. It's that trait, the ability to "bend" around the edge that is going to make him a special pass rusher in this league.

dlaw 5 (3)

Because the play is going the other way, Arizona left Lawrence unblocked; here we can see how quickly he has moved down the line of scrimmage. He's almost across the formation and the RB hasn't gotten the ball yet (red arrow). The rest of the DL is playing well too; you can see how tiny the gap is that the Cardinals RB is trying to run through, and Spencer has done a good job of maintaining outside leverage in case the play bumps outside.

dlaw 5 (4)

Which is exactly what happens. Tyrone Crawford beats his block, forcing the RB to bounce outside; Spencer is already there giving the RB nowhere to go. What's interesting though is where Lawrence is. He had to slow up because of Tyrone Crawford bursting through; if he hadn't though, he had a very good chance of getting to the RB in the backfield before he hits the hole.

Play 6: 9:25 left in the first quarter. 3rd and 4.

dlaw 6 (1)

Here we see Dallas come out with two 3-Techs (Henry Melton and Tyrone Crawford) and for the first time we see Lawrence line up on the left side of the formation.

dlaw 6 (2)

The Cowboys run a stunt with Crawford and Lawrence, and Anthony Hitchens. Hitchens rushes from the outside, drawing the attention of the tackle, while Crawford attacks the outside edge of the formation, drawing away the guard. Lawrence meanwhile hesitates, then rushes inside one on one with the center (the guard is being occupied by a rushing Rolando McClain).

Dlaw 6 (3)

D-Law puts a nasty swim move on the center; watching it in real time it was just sick. Meanwhile there is another stunt going on at the outside of the pocket (red arrow), where Henry Melton has somehow come all the way across the formation and is now occupying the guard, while Crawford is being blocked by the tackle.

Dlaw 6 (5)

Which frees up Anthony Hitchens to get to the quarterback at the same time as DeMarcus Lawrence (you see Hitchens high, Lawrence is around the feet) forcing Palmer to throw while backpedaling. Check out the red circle, that's Henry Melton who has somehow made it back across the formation again.

Play 7: 1:49 left in the 1st quarter, 1st and 15.

dlaw 7 (1)

Here we see D-Law in his normal WDE position. He's playing the pass the whole way, lined up wide and in a sprinters stance.

dlaw 7 (2)

This is pretty standard stuff; he's engaged the tackle, trying to beat him around the edge, with neither player having the advantage right now. What is interesting is D-Law's hands. You can see him "hand-battling" the tackle (it almost looks like they're playing patty-cake). That's a pretty veteran technique (DeMarcus Ware used to take martial arts to improve his use of hands), and if he can consistently incorporate it as a rookie it bodes very well for his future performance.

dlaw 7 (3)

And here D-Law has his man beat. The tackle is almost all the way turned around while D-Law is still perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, meaning D-Law has the outside. He's also all the way into the tackle's body, giving him leverage.

dlaw 7 (4)

Here we can see him shedding the tackle. He's not in time to make the play but this was a good example of what he brings to the table; he just beat the tackle one on one to the outside as easy as you please.

Play 8: 1:08 left in the first quarter 2nd and 5.

dlaw 8 (1)

Next we see Lawrence against the run. He lined up on the strong side and was initially double teamed by the tackle and tight end while the guard and center doubled Terrell McClain. Here we can see the tackle and center sliding off the two double teams to pick up the linebackers.

dlaw 8 (2)

Above D-Law is still tied up against the TE, and both both linebackers are getting engaged. You can't see it but at the top of the picture Carson Palmer is following through on his play fake in hopes of stalling the DB's a bit longer; this is shaping up to be a good run.

dlaw 8 (3)

Lawrence however is able to get off his block and make the tackle. Which is a good thing, McClain is blocked out of the play and you can see in the red circle that Hitchens is about to get blocked as well, giving the RB a really nice cut back lane. One play after showing off some nice pass-rush skills Lawrence shows off a nice ability to hold at the point of attack.

Play 9: 10:49 left in the 2nd quarter. 1st and 10. Run play between the guard and tackle on his side. Lawrence isn't able to get off his block, but does walk the tackle back squeezing the lane tight and enabling the linebacker to make a play.

Play 10: 10:30 left in the 2nd quarter. 2nd and 5.

dlaw 10 (1)

Dallas is in the 4-3 with Lawrence at his normal WDE position. What's interesting here is that Kyle Wilber is playing in place of Bruce Carter. Earlier in the game Carter came onto the field very, very late; I have to wonder if he was benched because of that mental lapse, or if he's still feeling the effects of his injury.

dlaw 10 (2)

D-Law shoots the gap inside incredibly quick. That may be by design as the Cardinals have a guard pulling across the formation.

dlaw 10 (3)

If it was by design it was a bad one. Lawrence is in the backfield so quick the guard only gets a chip shot on him, and D-Law is in great position to make a play in the backfield.

dlaw 10 (4)

Juuuust, a little block in the back there! That little push is enough to cause Lawrence to lose his balance, still he has forced the running back to cut upfield sooner than the RB would have liked.

dlaw 10 (6)

Despite two blocks in the back and a pretty blatant hold, Lawrence still almost makes the play. The Cowboys got lucky here, if the lead blocking back (red circle) had made the right read and picked up Rolando McClain (or tried to at least!), this could have been a big play. As it is, the blocking back double teamed an already engaged lineman, and McClain was free to fill the lane and make a play.

Play 11: 7:22 left in the 2nd quarter. 1st and 10: Lawrence is playing the WDE, and drops into coverage in the flat. Good coverage, Palmer goes there for his initial read before coming back to throw towards the middle of the field.

Play 12: 7:17 left in the 2nd quarter.  2nd and 10: Passing play, Lawrence beats the tackle but a guard comes over to help. No pressure.

Play 13: 5:00 left in the 2nd quarter, 3rd and 10: I believe this is the only play Lawrence played in goal-line packages. Gets double teamed in pass protection, quick slant the other way for a touchdown.

Play 14: 8:00 left in the 3rd quarter. 1st and 10: Run play going to the opposite side, beats tackle around the edge and chases down the line.

Play 15: 7:43 left in the 3rd quarter. 2nd and 9: Pass play. Beats tackle around edge, but loses balance turning the corner and trips. Manages to get back up and almost recovers a fumble by the Wide receiver (first Dallas player in the area).

Play 16: 5:05 left in the 3rd quarter.  2nd and 25. Lines up as a SDE. Screen pass, can't get off block.

Play 17: 4:24 left in the 3rd quarter.  3rd and 18. Three-man front, no pressure.

Play 18: 8:54 left in the 4th quarter.  1st and 10.

dlaw 18 (1)

Dallas is in an interesting formation here. Arizona is playing two tight ends, one on either side of the line. Dallas responds with Nick Hayden playing the 3-technique, Tyrone Crawford playing the 1-tech, and Lawrence playing the SDE.

dlaw 18 (2)

DeMarcus Lawrence does a great job here getting penetration against the double team. If you look at the pile, you'll see that every Arizona lineman is past the yellow line, except for the two blocking Lawrence.

dlaw 18 (3)

Lawrence is eventually taken to the ground, but that initial penetration forces the running back to cut back against the play.

dlaw 18 (4)

Here you can see what penetration does. In the yellow circle there are three linemen with no one to block, leaving Crawford (red circle), free to tackle the running back.

Play 19: 8:13 left in the 4th quarter. 2nd and 11. This is the play where Larry Fitzgerald gets behind Sterling Moore for a big gain.

dlaw 19 (1)

Arizona comes out in shotgun and an empty backfield, Dallas counters with two 3-techs and Lawrence lined up out wide at WDE.

dlaw 19 (2)

Lawrence gets good initial burst off the line. Something I saw again and again, he's lower than his opponent, and his helmet is to the outside. Right now he's got the lineman beat.

dlaw 19 (3)

But the tackle does a good job of adjusting, and maybe gets away with a little bit of a hold.

dlaw 19 (4)

And this is pretty awesome. When he realizes he's not going to win around the edge, Lawrence uses a counter move, a nifty little spin back inside. The tackle is caught completely flatfooted. Meanwhile in the red circle, there's a pretty blatant block in the back going on...

dlaw 19 (5)

That spin takes Lawrence right to Carson Palmer. It was a great play, that comes just a second too late.

Play 20: 7:43 left in the 4th. 1st and 10. Run play opposite side.

Play 21: 7:41 left in the 4th. 1st and 10. Quick slant, no pressure.

Play 22: 5.25 left in the 4th.  1st and 10. Crashes hard inside, tackles RB for a short gain.

Play 23: 5:20 left in the 4th,  2nd and 10. Pass play, double teamed, no pressure.

The rest of his snaps come when the Cardinals are kneeling the ball.

What Does it All Mean? There were a few takeaways from Lawrence's game. The first isn't really about him, but about how the coaches used him; he rarely played on 3rd down which I found odd, and rarely played near the goal-line.

More importantly though, is how he played; and that was pretty darn well. He showed some really exciting things for a rookie, especially one playing his first NFL game, including counter moves, and hand fighting. He held up well at the point of the attack in the run game (all the talk about how much bigger he had gotten proved true in this game), and showed good quickness and penetration. He never got a sack, but came darn close a number of times.

His biggest weakness from this game was an inability to beat double teams in the passing game, and a lack of power moves. If he couldn't get around the edge initially he was toast; right now everything he does pass rushing is based off of getting to the edge and then countering back inside if needed.

Well there you go fellow BtB'ers. What do you think? And who would you like to see a breakdown of next week?

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