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Why DeMarcus Lawrence could be set for a bigger year than he had in 2017

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After a dominant 2017 NFL season, pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence may be primed to out-do himself in 2018.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Lawrence took the entire league by storm last year after posting a career high 14.5 sacks. The former second-round pick has always had the talent but has struggled to stay healthy in his four years in the NFL. This was the first time in DeMarcus Lawrence’s career where he was able to stay fully healthy (or avoid suspension), and he did not disappoint.

In 2017, DeMarcus Lawrence was entering the final year of his four-year rookie deal. The Cowboys decided to place the franchise tag on Lawrence after a dominant season, owing him $17,143,000 in 2018. A lot of people questioned if paying the former second-round pick that much money after just one healthy season was the right move. It was, and it would be wise for the Cowboys’ front office to try and get a long-term deal done before the start of the season.

Run defense

Not only was Lawrence a phenomenal pass rusher in 2017, but he was also one of the best defensive ends against the run in the NFL. DeMarcus is so good with his hands that he’s able to shed blockers with ease, and control offensive lineman at the point of attack due to his strength and balance.

As you see in the clip above, DeMarcus Lawrence is able to beat the tight end combo block with ease. He easily sheds the first blocker using an arm over move, then is able to get away from the second tight end using a nice spin move. This may not look like much, but this is an extremely difficult play to make, and Lawrence makes it look easy.

This is another play that DeMarcus Lawrence makes look really simple, but in reality this is a tough play to make. First, Lawrence wins off the line of scrimmage with his explosiveness, then he does a great job using his hands to shed the right tackle and make a play on Wayne Gallman on the other side of the line.

Another really explosive play from a 6-foot-3, 265lb man. Lawrence shows off his athletic ability and pure explosiveness on this play to make the stop against Seattle running back Mike Davis.

Pass rush

Now as we know, defensive ends make their money in the NFL for what they do when affecting the quarterback. When healthy there are few better at rushing the quarterback than DeMarcus Lawrence. The thing you love about him is the variety of ways he can win against offensive lineman. He has the speed, power, technique, and the ability to bend, when you put all of those things together you get a complete defensive end.

Here we see #90 show off a variety of his skills. First we see Lawrence convert speed to power and knock Germain Ifedi off balance with a straight bull rush. You notice the leverage that Lawrence is rushing with here and how much power and violence he possesses in his hands and upper body. The most impressive thing about this play is his ability to change direction and mirror Russell Wilson’s movements out of the pocket.

Again, watch the way DeMarcus Lawrence is able to control the offensive tackle with his hands. Lawrence perfectly places his strikes on the tackles hands/shoulders that knocks the right tackle completely off balance. Once DLaw sees the lineman with his weight on his heels, he’s able to dip, bend, and get the sack on Matt Ryan.

After a Pro Bowl season in 2017, Lawrence could be even better in 2018. With the additions of Dorance Armstrong, Jihad Ward, and possibly Randy Gregory, plus a healthy David Irving and improved Taco Charlton, the overall talent of the defensive line looks even better on paper. With more talent and depth coming off the weak-side and the interior of the defensive line, more 1-on-1 opportunities should open up for Lawrence.

It should also be noted that this is the healthiest DeMarcus has been since entering the league in 2014. We also know that Lawrence is on a one-year deal with the franchise tag, if the team can’t get a long-term deal done, he will be looking to add another Pro Bowl season and cash in on free agency in 2019. The Cowboys will then have to pay him, or tag him again. All of this is going to lead to a big 2018 for Lawrence.