A lot was made about the defensive end position and how the Dallas Cowboys would go about upgrading it over the offseason. It was made clear earlier in the offseason that Greg Hardy wasn't going return to Big D in 2016. The move may surprise some to a degree, but Hardy's on-field performance did not cancel out the type of nuisance he was in the locker room.
The Cowboys are all about picking the "Right Kinda Guys" as Jason Garrett likes to say, and while Hardy has never been that guy, signing him in free agency was seen as a move that could put this team over the top and elevate them to one that could win a Super Bowl. After choosing to go on without Hardy, there were some minor rumors that the Cowboys were interested in signing Olivier Vernon or Mario Williams. But after both players were overpaid in free agency and the Cowboys decided that overspending for a defensive end was not the smartest idea, the draft became the place where the Cowboys could bring in a pass rusher.
The need was pressing and the suspensions to both DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory made it even more pressing. But Dallas didn't budge, choosing not to spend one of their early picks on a defensive end, choosing instead to select Charles Tapper in the fourth round. The logic of "production by all and not one" became abundantly clear. And despite what some may think, the Cowboys have some defensive ends on their roster that can perform and make an impact, and their names don't end in Lawrence or Gregory.
Disclaimer: For the sake of this list, I left off Lawrence and Gregory.
The Cowboys brought Crawford back on a one-year deal that is less than what he should be getting paid. At 27 years old, Crawford is still somewhat of an unproven player, but he's found a nice niche with the Cowboys over the past two seasons as a situational pass-rusher who can come in and play in multiple subpackages in multiple positions. With the two suspensions, Crawford will be asked to take on a bigger role. But as he has proven before, when the Cowboys give him a bigger role, it usually leads to big things.
If you haven't heard of Russell, it's honestly quite fine. In his rookie season, Russell suffered an abdomen injury, that kept him from playin, he had just 33 recorded snaps. However, Russell was a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and the Cowboys have big hopes for this athletic specimen. The Cowboys look for a specific set of traits when addressing defensive ends and Russell is the epitome of them: speed, explosiveness, quick-twitch, among others. With another offseason with the team under his belt, don't be surprised to hear Russell's name being a common one heard on Sundays.
Another player you have never heard of is Mayowa. One of the Cowboys' free agency signings, Mayowa recently played for the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks. Playing for two teams who have solid defensive fronts, Mayowa was never able to carve out a consistent role. On DallasCowboys.com a few weeks ago, Leon Lett had said that the Cowboys have followed Mayowa for about three years, dating back to his time with Seattle. There's clearly a fascination in Mayowa that the Cowboys have that some other teams just may not see.
My love for the drafting of Tapper has been well-documented. Just know this, he's the most freakish defensive end in this draft class according to multiple scouting analytics. At Oklahoma, Tapper displayed a ton of qualities that NFL coaches love. The problems with Tapper were his inconsistencies and his strength, but those are wrinkles that can get straightened out by an NFL coaching staff. His impact may not be felt from the get-go, but Tapper has the tools to become a quality defensive end for a long time in Dallas.
There seems to be some thought that Irving will become more of an end rather than a tackle at least to start the 2016 season, which is why he is on this list. If it weren't for some reoccurring problems at Iowa State, Irving would've been drafted higher in the 2015 NFL Draft. He was extremely productive in limited opportunities at defensive tackle last year, but defensive end is his natural position and with their questions of depth at it and the Cowboys having enough defensive tackles as it is, giving Irving time at defensive end makes too much sense.
An undrafted guy from the 2016 draft class made this list? You bet he did. Azubike is a unique player and it's not just because of the freakishly scary green contacts he wore during a football game a few years ago. Azubike is shredded. No really, he's ridiculously shredded. Besides looking the part, Azubike is a guy that will intrigue the Cowboys in the way he had to play out of position in Vanderbilt's 3-4 defense. Even in that scheme, Azubike was one of the best in the country, according to PFF. He'll have to prove a lot to make the final 53-man roster, but there is definitely something to Azubike that makes a case for him to be an interesting product.
Who is Michael McAdoo? If you're thinking of that North Carolina basketball star and current Golden State Warrior, you are wrong as his name is James Michael McAdoo. The Cowboys' McAdoo is someone who I can almost bet you've never heard of. Suspended for his last season in college at North Carolina and being on injured reserve for all of his time as a player in the NFL, McAdoo has never had the extended opportunity to prove himself. But the fact that the Cowboys brought him in on a two-year deal is extremely surprising.
Dallas usually gives out these two-year deals to players in hopes of the parameters of a prove-it deal and one where they will maximize their contract. Also, the Baltimore Ravens held onto McAdoo much longer than they should've. If there is one front office in football that teams should follow, it is Ozzie Newsome's bunch in Baltimore. Dallas has plans for this kid and we will get a full glimpse of that in the coming weeks.
Dallas Day allows the Cowboys to get the upper-hand on other professional teams in terms of finding talent around the Texas area. Neill is a guy the Cowboys discovered there and he's a guy that could make noise if he performs in training camp. The Cowboys need closing pass rushers in the fourth quarter, ones that can get a clutch sack when one needs to be attained. Neill was one of the best at that in college, according to PFF. Neill will face an uphill battle to crack the final roster, but the Cowboys have liked what they've seen out of him in the past to warrant him being apart of their offseason program.