Even before the suspensions of defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence, the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line consisted of unproven players that have not done much with their careers, along with a few experienced vets. With Lawrence scheduled to be suspended for four games and Gregory possibly suspended for ten games, the Cowboys are truthfully going to need some unexpected positive performances to get after the quarterback with consistency.
Dallas has had plenty of roster churn over the course of the past two seasons. If you take a look at the Cowboys' defensive front, it's crazy to believe that only three players who will be called upon to contribute in 2016 are over the age of 25. Dallas had the chance to draft some defensive line help in the second round of the 2016 draft, but when Emmanuel Ogbah and Kevin Dodd went back-to-back right in front of the Cowboys atop the second round, it made it easy for the Cowboys to pick the next top player on their draft board, that guy being injured linebacker Jaylon Smith.
There's without a doubt going to be a transition for the younger defensive lineman to get acclimated to bigger roles, but the Cowboys believed that the drafting of Ezekiel Elliott would mean that the team's best version of defense is its best version of offense. Dallas is going to rely heavily on their offense in 2016 and if they are successful in this department, it could be vital to the success of the younger players on this defensive front.
I'm all for relying on young players and giving them opportunities rather than giving valuable playing time to aging, has-been veterans. There are a ton of things to like out of this current defensive line unit. Ryan Russell has looked really good this offseason, Benson Mayowa's athleticism is off the charts, and Jack Crawford seems destined for a successful 2016 season in a bigger role than any he's ever had previously.
The Cowboys are dealing with some injury issues along the line, too. On Monday they learned that Tyrone Crawford's back injury has flared up again, forcing him to miss practice and get an MRI. Mayowa is already missing time because of an offseason surgery.
Third-round pick Maliek Collins is sidelined with a right foot injury at least for another few weeks. Sure Cedric Thornton will provide for a presence in the middle, but the Cowboys may have to bite the bullet and go after some veteran help that is currently available.
Adding a guy like Dwight Freeney is now making more and more sense by the day.
Freeney is no longer the player he used to be at 34 years of age, but he still managed to get eight sacks in 11 games in 2015. And if the Cowboys can use him in a role where he can maximize his effort and they don't overuse him, it could pay off dividends for everyone involved. In the past 15 or so years, not many defensive ends have had more respected careers than the former Indianapolis Colt. In Dallas, Freeney could be an excellent mentor to both Gregory and Lawrence. And considering how he is still unsigned, the Cowboys could potentially get him at a minimum value.