Over the last few years the Cowboys have struggled putting together a formidable pass rush. From the years 2013-2015, the defense has ranked towards the bottom of the league in sacks. Last year, they made a significant jump, but still only ranked 14th. Without question, it’s been the Achilles heel of this team. Since the departure of Demarcus Ware, the Cowboys haven’t had the real threat of a perennial pass rusher on the team. They tried to circumvent this issue by renting the services of Greg Hardy in 2015, but that experiment didn’t pan out. The sack leaders for this team over the last three seasons have been Benson Mayowa (6), DeMarcus Lawrence (8), and Jeremy Mincey (6).
The Cowboys have attempted to rebuild this unit by investing two second-round picks in Lawrence (2014) and Randy Gregory (2015), but both these players have had a hard time staying on the field due to injuries and suspensions. So once again, the organization is faced with the huge responsibility of revamping this position group.
So, 2017 Draft to the rescue, right? Not so fast.
There is no denying that pass rushers dominate the conversation when it comes to the biggest need on the team. Certainly, an impact defensive end would be a welcoming feeling to any fan when pick number 28 rolls around. But as we have learned over the last few drafts, it just doesn’t work that way. Under the watch of Assistant Director of Player Personnel, Will McClay, the Cowboys have done a phenomenal job of snatching top-level talent in the draft, but one of the big reasons for this is that the team stays committed to selecting players based on talent, not need. As luck would have it, when the Cowboys have been on the clock during the first round in the draft, it has not been a pass rusher that is atop their draft board. So, sticking to their guns, the front office keeps taking players from other positions.
And don’t be surprised if the same thing happens again this year. What are the odds that the most talented player on the Cowboys board is a defensive end? You know how many different positions there are. You can do the math. And McClay recently spoke about this and reminded us all that the Cowboys have a certain way they go about the draft and it will not be compromised.
“I think one of the things that you learn is if you plan you’re going to get a player on this side of the ball then you force it. What we’re going to do is let the chips fall where they may. We’re going to grade and evaluate the players and we’re going to pick the right players for us. We have our objectives and goals in mind.
This isn’t anything new for us fans. We’ve been subjected to these types of explanations every time the team has to defend their choices. Of course, as well as the team has been drafting in recent years, you’d think they wouldn’t have much explaining to do on the subject. But it won’t stop the criticism from coming. Dallas have devoted so much draft capital on the offensive side of the ball where fans are frustrated by the lack of attention the defense gets. The team actually does throw picks at the defense, but it just doesn’t come in the first round. And it’s hard to argue with those offensive selections in the first round as all five of them over the last seven years have been All-Pro players.
This doesn’t mean that the Cowboys won’t be calling a pass rusher with their first pick. Jerry Jones is no stranger to wheeling and dealing. He could very easily drive himself to the pick by some type of trade up/down scenario. Every draft presents new opportunities, but the Cowboys showed last year that they have solidified their ability to not act in haste and jump to a need or overpay towards a player they really like. The team is committed to doing things the right way so patience is needed.
So, don’t shake your head too much if the Cowboys don’t call the name of a pass rusher with pick 28. Just have faith in McClay and company because they put together a team that just went 13-3 so somebody appears to know what they’re doing.