The defensive end position has plagued the Dallas Cowboys for a while. As you may recall, in recent seasons we have seen the likes of George Selvie, Greg Hardy, Jeremy Mincey, Randy Gregory, Tyrone Carwford and DeMarcus Lawrence among others man the position. Insert a makeshift defensive tackle here or there, and suddenly, you have the starting defensive ends for the Dallas Cowboys. While some of those players have had good seasons or contributed in a meaningful way, it has still been a particular weakness for the team. Let’s take a look at the defensive ends and attempt to make sense for next season.
Tyrone Crawford was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft and leveraged a strong 2014 into a very lucrative contract that he has yet to live up to. He has since split time at defensive end and defensive tackle but after evaluating the defensive tackles, it is fair to think he will remain at defensive end. While he is locked in for another few seasons, Dallas will continue to hope he can get back to his pre-contract form.
DeMarcus Lawrence was Dallas’ second-round pick in 2014. He was brought on board after Dallas had lost DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff (ouch!). His breakout game took place during the 2015 wild-card playoff game where he strip-sacked Matthew Stafford, recovered the ball and sealed the game for Dallas. Lawrence appeared to be on the verge of breaking out, but injuries and suspensions have slowed his progress. He will remain a key piece on the defensive line.
Benson Mayowa signed a three-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys before the 2016 season. The motivation to bring him on board was to find depth at the defensive end position in a time where DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory were facing suspensions. He started off the season on the PUP list and was repeatedly benched during the first half of the season because of poor quality play. Fortunately, he found his groove and finished with six sacks during the last six games of the season. That late performance will ensure that he remains in the mix as a backup defensive end.
David Irving became a bit of a cult hero this season. His breakout game took place in Green Bay when he forced three fumbles, recovering one, had a sack, and batted down a pass (in just 19 snaps). He followed up that performance with a pair of late-season performances against Tampa Bay and Detroit where he had three sacks and a forced fumble. The MO on David Irving has been inconsistent play. Now that the front office and coaching staff have recognized his potential, look for him to remain a cornerstone on the defensive line.
Ryan Davis was signed by Dallas early in the 2016 season and enters this offseason as a free agent again. While he performed here and there this season, he ended the season on injured reserve. We have seen the last of Davis in the Cowboys uniform.
Let’s keep this simple. The Cowboys should rid themselves of Randy Gregory. There was tremendous potential but it will go down as a wasted second-round pick.
Summary of Predictions
Starting Defensive Ends: DeMarcus Lawrence - Tyrone Crawford/Free Agent/Draft Pick
DeMarcus Lawrence will remain as the starting defensive end. The Cowboys will likely leave Crawford as the other starting defensive end unless they find some help elsewhere and he gets bumped to rotation guy. As has been discussed many times here, there is great pressure to upgrade the defensive end position. Look for Dallas to make a splash in free agency or rely on a top-round pick to strengthen their defensive ends.
Back Up Defensive Ends: David Irving and Benson Mayowa
David Irving has the potential to become the starting defensive end, but his inconsistent play still looms. Look for Irving to start opposite of Lawrence if Dallas does not add a new talent. Benson Mayowa will remain as a strong backup for the defensive line. He finished the year strong and he will remain in contention to become a starter.
Ryan Davis: Given the overall depth among the defensive tackles and defensive ends, there is no incentive to re-sign Ryan Davis.
Randy Gregory: Suspended.