If asked which current player leads the Cowboys in career sacks most would probably guess Tyrone Crawford or Demarcus Lawrence. Some non-Cowboys fans might not even be able to name a defensive lineman on the roster. While Crawford and Lawrence are both near the top with a paltry nine and eight career sacks respectively, the actual leader is Ryan Davis, a Cowboy for all of the last two weeks, with 11 sacks over his first three years in the league.
Despite posting 10 sacks in a rotational role over the last two seasons Davis was released by the Jaguars during final cuts. While most might assume that a player released by a team as poor as the Jaguars wouldn’t be worth adding, that certainly wasn’t the case here. The Jaguars actually have a very young, talented group of defensive ends, headlined by 2015 third-overall pick Dante Fowler and 2016 third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue, both of whom already have two sacks this season. They also have a dependable veteran in Jared Odrick at the position.
With this talented group of linemen the Jaguars attempted to convert Davis to something of an end/outside linebacker hybrid, similar to a 3-4 OLB where he was asked to drop into coverage at times. This conversion didn’t go well so the team decided to release him and save $2.5 million, which is the amount of the one-year deal that he signed after the team thought enough of him to tender him at the level of a second-round designation this past offseason.
The Cowboys signed Davis to a one-year deal a few days before the Redskins game, which he was inactive for. The Bears game was the first glimpse we got of Davis, and while he only played eight snaps, he showed more than enough to warrant significantly more snaps moving forward.
First there is this, with Davis (#75) lined up across from the left tackle on the right side of the Cowboys line:
Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think there is a single defensive lineman aside from Demarcus Lawrence on the roster who has the ability Davis shows here. He does a fantastic job using his hands to swat away the hands of the Bears left tackle, flattens out around the edge once he’s even, and shows explosiveness at the end to close on the quarterback, getting a hit on Brian Hoyer just as he releases the ball. That explosiveness at the end is key as you can see Josh Sitton attempting to get over to help his left tackle, but he misses Davis by a fraction of a second. This play should be very exciting to Cowboys fans.
That’s not all though, Davis also showed off a spin move here when lined up on the left side of the formation across from the Bears right tackle, Bobby Massie:
Again, Hoyer gets rid of the ball right before Davis gets there, but if forced to hold it for an extra half second Davis has a clear path to the quarterback. This is as impressive of a spin move as I’ve seen from a Cowboys lineman this season.
So far we have seen Davis show the ability to hand fight, to flatten around the edge and explode as he reaches the quarterback, but how about power?
Well here you go:
Again lined up across from the left tackle, Davis shows off a bull rush as he walks Leno Jr. right back to the quarterback. Hoyer feels the pressure from both sides, escapes the pocket and gets rid of the ball, but you can see how Davis impacted the play. As an aside, David Irving had a great bull rush himself here on the left side of the formation, and then had a near sack on the very next play that resulted in a game-ending fumble, but that’s another story.
To be fair, the Bears starting tackles form one of the worst pairs in the league and the circumstances were ideal as all of Davis’ snaps came in the fourth quarter when he was fresh, with a huge lead, and no threat of the run. With that said, in only eight snaps Davis showed more juice off the edge than Benson Mayowa, Jack Crawford, Tyrone Crawford, David Irving or any other lineman not named Demarcus Lawrence has shown throughout the entire preseason and the first few games of the regular season.
This is not to say that Davis deserves to start over either of the Crawford’s or anything like that. Those two know the scheme inside and out, they’re strong against the run, and they have shown the ability to hold up over 40+ snaps a game.
What is fair to say though is that Davis deserves significantly more snaps, as he has already flashed more pass rush ability off the edge than just about anybody on the roster.
Now, it’s anybody’s guess as to whether or not Davis will be able to replicate this against better competition after playing 20-25 snaps in a game, although considering the state of the Cowboys pass rush I don’t think they have any choice but to give it a try and find out.