We all know the Dallas Cowboys have needs at pass rusher that they hope to address this offseason. Is anyone at all concerned with this team’s recent track record with pass rushers? That seems to be the something that is missing in this process of looking at the top prospects in the draft. We know that this year’s draft class is said to be deep at positions of need for the Cowboys, those being edge rusher and cornerback. With that said whether it’s Takkarist McKinley, Tim Williams, Taco Charlton or others; the question centers on this staff’s ability to find and/or develop a guy.
A lot of issues this team has had with pass rushers aren’t entirely within their control. Attrition is a part of the game and there’s no way of telling which guys are going to remain healthy. However, let’s discuss things that ultimately have been on them. Certain decisions that have or have not been made have led to them having the problems they’ve experienced. These problems trace back further than just a few seasons; in fact, this team has had pass rushing problems dating back to Rob Ryan’s tenure with the Cowboys.
It’s been four years since the Dallas Cowboys have had a double-digit sack artist. They haven’t been able to crack the Top-10 in sacks since 2011. You can hear it now, “sacks aren’t everything.” Sure, that is correct, but they are something and sacks do matter. The same issue that sent the Cowboys packing in the 2014 playoffs was their demise in 2016 as well. If you can’t put pressure on the quarterback, when it counts, they will carve you up.
The natural thought process for this year’s draft is to take advantage of a plethora of pass rushers to help solve the issue. Still, there are doubts about the organization’s ability to find and develop these guys. David Irving came on strong this past season but he’s been the only guy that this team has developed in recent memory. It’s harsh criticism but who else has been much of a factor? Benson Mayowa led the team with six sacks this season but he was a restricted free agent acquisition that was benched after underwhelming for the majority of the season.
Tyrone Crawford (third-round pick in 2013) was supposed to become the famed three-tech penetrating tackle in Rod’s scheme but hasn’t found a place to excel. DeMarcus Lawrence (34th-overall pick in 2014) hasn’t been able to stay on the field. We won’t even kick the dead horse that is the situation with Randy Gregory (second-rounder in 2015). There is some serious hope that Maliek Collins (third-rounder in 2016) will build on his solid rookie season but then there is Charles Tapper (fourth-rounder in 2016) that didn’t give them a single snap in his rookie year.
Dallas will not disobey their philosophy and open up the checkbook in free agency because that is not cost-effective. The draft is this team’s only legitimate way at finding top-end talent and making something of it but as of late, the team has struggled.
In the past week, I’ve echoed the same sentiments of Bryan Broaddus and Nick Eatman, both of who are concerned with the way this team goes about finding pass rushers. There is a deficit in talent level for these defenders. The rotation theory sounds very good but this team hasn’t shown the ability to even capitalize on that. Wouldn’t you much rather have one or two guys that have the pass rushing pedigree to be a force than more of what you already have? Irving has that potential but they need more than just him. This team needs guys that you have to plan for. That’s something they haven’t had since DeMarcus Ware was wreaking havoc many moons ago.
This team is full of guys with high motors and marginal talent; they now need to go after difference makers. We’re talking about guys that are constantly and consistently disruptions to the opposing offense. Enough with the talk about Marinelli doing wonders or creating chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what, it’s time to capitalize on 12-4 and 13-3 seasons. When you continuously go after middling talents, it decreases the chance of finding premier talent and takes way more time to develop what talent they have.
Talent acquisition is a tough business; there is no true fail-safe method to follow. However, it would be great to start seeing this front office and coaching staff start hitting some more home runs. If there is this so-called depth in this year’s draft class at pass rusher, this team needs to identify the guys that will make a difference.
As good as they have been at finding “diamonds in the rough”, they’ve been equally disappointing at finding star-level talents on defense. Until they are able to upgrade the talent level on their defensive line, they will continue to experience those “close but no cigar” type of seasons.