The Dallas Cowboys have a problem. Everyone knows about it. Everyone goes on at length about it. Everyone castigates them for not doing anything about it. They have lacked pass rush since time out of mind.
Not too long ago, some fool (I have no idea who that guy was) proclaimed them ready to have the best defensive line since the late 70s. Then Jay Ratliff decided not to show up, Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware both suffered severe injury problems, and they cycled through 20 different players trying to find people to man the line alongside Jason Hatcher, who did, indeed, go on to have a truly phenomenal 11 sack season (put in perspective, it's only happened 50 times in NFL history for defensive tackles, and six of those were John Randle).
So the next season Dallas blew it all up and started over. They spent a combined second- and third-round pick on pass rush specialist DeMarcus Lawrence and signed career journeyman Jeremy Mincey to hold the fort. Last year, Dallas added another second-rounder, Randy Gregory, to the stable. The cries continued to come forth, however, that Dallas wasn't doing enough to bolster their pass rush, and with both of these significant investments riding the pine for the start of the 2016 season and the fourth overall pick in hand, it seemed an opportune time for Dallas to "do something". So they did - they drafted fourth-round pick Charles Tapper, who was not quite the investment of a "4th" many were hoping for.
But that wasn't all. They also spent in the free agent market. The Giants spent big bucks on Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Eagles re-signed their own Vinny Curry at $9.2 million a year to play in their new 4-3, and the Dolphins gave 31 year old Mario Williams $8.5 million a year to replace the aforementioned Vernon. Dallas answered these moves with a whopping $2.7 million a year contract to Benson Mayowa and by completely ignoring Greg Hardy (who remains without a contract).
Now they are just trolling us, right? They can't seriously think they can move forward with what they have?
Well, it appears that is exactly the plan. And, in the long view, it's not a bad one. DeMarcus Lawrence, Cedric Thornton, Tyrone Crawford, and Randy Gregory is actually a pretty salty-looking young unit when they get there. But what does Dallas do in the meantime?
Dallas plans to make do with their depth players and I wish to take a closer look at several of them, starting with the most forgotten of all men, David Irving. I say that because I consistently leave him out when discussing what Dallas should do to replace Lawrence and Gregory.
How anyone can overlook a 6' 7" 275 lb man is a bit of a mystery, yet that is exactly what we continuously do. On a mere 199 snaps, Irving produced 14 quarterback pressures, 4.5 hurries, and a half-sack. That's not 199 pass-rush snaps, but 199 total. That's some decent production.
Don't get me wrong, it's not that he's going to light up the league, but that's far from useless. The thing is, he has a quick get-off and his size is much more suited to defensive end than the defensive tackle position where he started out. It's possible that he can be more effective from the outside. His half-sack came from that position. What does Irving look like in action?
The biggest thing (no pun intended) that Irving offers is length. Here, from the left tackle position, he uses his long arms and strength to keep a blocker completely away from him and get free into the backfield forcing an errant throw.
In this next GIF, Irving shows a little bit of a quick get off and some bend around the edge as he pressures Russell Wilson.This is what the Cowboys would like to see from his play at defensive end (he is on the left side).
The quick step is on display here from the defensive tackle spot as he lances through the line for a backfield stop as a cocked 1-tech from the right side.
And finally his impressive wingspan can come in handy when trying to obstruct the middle of the field
While these are just a handful of plays, and there are many others that are not much to see, there is a little something to Irving's game and he can contribute from the defensive end spot, where his one (half) sack statistic came from. Watch him use his speed and power to blow through a double team on his inside stunt. A little bonus at the end as Tyrone Crawford literally flies in to finish the job, uncredited.
While David Irving may not inspire fear in the hearts and minds of offensive coordinators across the league, he should make a serviceable rotational defensive end and be able to hold down the fort for a few games.