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Is Benson Mayowa A New Hope For The Cowboys' Pass Rush Woes?

Continuing our examination of potential DE starters during the first 4 games, we move on to the second-biggest free agent acquisition of the off season. Does Benson Mayowa have the traits to be a starting defensive end?

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[Ed. Note - Heavy GIFs coming your way, please be patient if your load time is slow.]

Dallas Cowboys fans have decried the unwillingness of the Jones boys to sign or draft a starting replacement defensive end during this offseason. This seems especially egregious, given that the team went into the draft knowing about its defensive ends and their suspensions. It is not true, however, that no moves were made. They did draft an intriguing prospect in Charles Tapper and they signed a promising free agent in Benson Mayowa. Mawoya came out of Idaho slightly undersized at 6' 2", 241 lbs., with a respectable 4.73 forty time, a strong 37.5" vertical, and impressive lateral agility with a 7.05 3-cone time. The Cowboys, for their part, currently list him at 6' 3", 240 lbs. He made the 2013 Seahawks as a rookie undrafted free agent - no small feat to be part of a Super Bowl champion in those circumstances, and he was active for two games. He was let go at the end of the 2014 preseason and immediately claimed off waivers by the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders liked his play enough to give him an original-round tender as a restricted free agent but did not match Dallas' three year $8.25 million offer.

The first thing that needs to be said about Mayowa is that he backed up both Khalil Mack and Mario Edwards Jr (and sometimes Aldon Smith). The Raiders employed a hybrid 3-4 scheme, using outside linebackers to rush (think Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer circa 2009) and did it pretty well. He lined up as a defensive end in their nickel packages as well, playing both strong side and weak side from a variety of stances (2, 3, and 4 point). He's a versatile player with plenty of strength and agility, who will hand fight and use leverage to keep blocks off of him. His technical game is very good. His athleticism is probably about average for an NFL player, but he is agile enough to drop into coverage, which makes him more than agile enough for stunting and rushing outside-in. The biggest thing to know is that Mayowa held his own when he stepped in for those players. Edwards has noticeably more physical strength. Mack is a star and better than Mayowa in just about every aspect of the game. But looking at the tape, I had to look to see who was playing where as Mayowa played quite well himself.

It should be noted that though he is a little small, Mayowa has no problem holding up to the run. Here he holds the defensive right edge against Detroit's tight end

And here from the defensive left takes on a pulling guard with no problem. Detroit ran this exact play at Mayowa twice and both times he completely held his ground.

He does a great job staying at home against counter plays, here stuffing a reverse by Denver's Cody Latimer

And here  smelling a bootleg, holding up (perhaps a bit illegally, though he was not flagged) the tight end sneaking out and manages to get a hit on QB Brock Osweiler as well.

And Rod Marinelli will surely like this little bit, where he sees a ball on the ground after the play and picks it up, just in case.

I am having a bit of fun with him here, but it is worth noting that bit of  film exemplifies his always aware, always on duty. He is relentless and persistent and does not take plays off, once even making a tackle on tight end Vernon Davis (whom he was not covering) 19 yards down field.

His pass rushes didn't seem to get home very often. He had few hits and only one sack. but he definitely can use leverage to keep blockers off of him (he's on the left side of your screen on each of the next three plays)

And is a willing hand fighter

And, while there were not a lot of stats racked up there were a lot of good rushes that weren't going to give the QB more than 3-3.5 seconds to throw (on the right side of your screen here).

And particularly note that in this package with Edwards and Mack lined up on the defensive right, Mayowa ends up engaging and beating two different blockers while Mack and Edwards both face one blocker. When DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory return from their suspensions you might see this type of setup. Mayowa is on the defensive left, the right side of the .GIF

While he may not have the upside of a Charles Tapper or Ryan Russell, Mayowa has more experience playing either defensive end position than anyone else the Cowboys are considering. In fact, he may have more experience than all of the other contenders combined and he definitely plays at a high level. While all of the other players we've looked at offer hope and development, Mayowa is a guy who has done the job and done it well.