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Film Review: Dorance Armstrong could be another fourth-round gem for the Cowboys

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Dorance Armstrong was a great value pick with tons of upside for the Cowboys.

Texas Tech v Kansas Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The 2018 NFL Draft is in the past, but we are not done reviewing it just yet! In the coming days, BTB will release film reviews on each player drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. This article will feature fourth-round selection Dorance Armstrong Jr. from the Kansas Jayhawks.


The Dallas Cowboys have talent at the defensive end position — DeMarcus Lawrence emerged as one of the NFL’s best defensive players in 2018, Tyrone Crawford is a solid veteran, and Kony Ealy is a former second-round pick that still has the talent to be a factor in a defensive line rotation. Taco Charlton was the 28th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft and began to show promise during the latter parts of last season. Oh, and there is a chance that Randy Gregory is eligible to play as soon as this September.

Even still, the Cowboys saw a player fall to them in the fourth-round that they could not pass up. A prospect that was once earning first-round hype after a huge breakout campaign in 2016 — Dorance Armstrong from the Kansas Jayhawks.

The Houston native and former North Shore High School star was tabbed as one of five potential steals in the 2018 NFL Draft by Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples.

The 6’4”, 257-pound Armstrong is a tweener who played defensive end at Kansas but may have to transition to 3–4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Or he may be able to put on weight and play as a 4–3 defensive end. He’s best at getting to the quarterback, but his sack numbers dropped from 10 in 2016 to 1.5 in 2017 because of a defensive scheme change.

All those factors will depress Armstrong’s draft stock, but a team that can project him into the correct role could find a gem late in the draft.

Let’s take a look on why the Cowboys wanted to add Armstrong to their defense.

Pass-rushing

The aspect of Dorance Armstrong’s game that gives him a chance to be a special player in the NFL is his ability to rush off of the edge and get to the quarterback. Playing defensive end in a 4-3 defense in 2016, Armstrong thrived and lived in opponents’ backfields each and every Saturday. The 2016 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year made 56 tackles, 20 tackles-for-loss, and got to the quarterback ten times during his sophomore season on the collegiate level.

This first clip shows Armstrong flying right past Tech Tech’s right tackle and forcing Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to rush his throw.

The replay shows Armstrong’s burst as soon as the ball is snapped. The right tackle has no chance, and Mahomes is taken down to the turf early in the game. Those hits definitely add up over the course of four quarters.

Later in the first quarter, Armstrong is lined up as a stand-up rusher. Armstrong’s speed immediately gives him an advantage and the offensive lineman has no chance to stop him from affecting the play.

Here’s another look at the sack. Armstrong’s versatility allowed Kansas to use his talents in a variety of different ways. Unlike the first play, Armstrong is not in a 3-point stance; instead, he is standing up and immediately starts his route to the quarterback. The talented pass rusher is able to get by the right tackle and get in Mahomes’ blind spot, resulting in Armstrong’s first of two sacks in the game.

If sacking one first-round quarterback isn’t enough for you, here’s Armstrong getting by Oklahoma’s right tackle and getting to 2017 Heisman Trophy winner and 2018’s number one overall draft pick Baker Mayfield. Nice spin move!

And this last clip shows how Armstrong can affect passing plays without getting all the way to the quarterback, as he deflects preseason 2018 Heisman Trophy contender Will Grier’s pass.

Run Support

The Kansas star isn’t at his best in run support, but he is still capable of making some plays in that area. Here are a few examples of Armstrong defending the run.

In this first clip, Armstrong is lined up as the left defensive end in a 4-3 scheme for Kansas. Mayfield and Oklahoma are running opposite of Armstrong’s direction, but he used his speed and athleticism to track down the running back, Joe Mixon, behind the line of scrimmage.

Another look shows that OU does not block Armstrong on the read-option play, which forces him to make a decision on whether to stay home and force the quarterback to hand the ball or go immediately for the back and risk giving up a big gain on a QB keeper. Armstrong’s length and athleticism makes him a threat to tackle both the back and Mayfield — should he have kept it.

In this next clip, Armstrong lines up at defensive end in the four-man front but immediately cuts inside. He reads where West Virginia running back Kennedy McKoy is going, and his quickness allows him to track the ball carrier down.

Finally, Dorance Armstrong was known throughout his career for the Jayhawks as an elite pass rusher; but in this play below, Armstrong makes a huge splash play — creating a turnover in the red zone and recovering the fumble as well.

Another look at the play shows Armstrong stand the ball carrier up and immediately start grabbing for the football. After finally ripping the ball out, he finishes the play off by falling and recovering the fumble. Not only does he play the run well here, but he makes a play that can potentially change a game.


Dorance Armstrong was hyped up to be a potential first-round choice last offseason following a campaign in which he tormented offensive linemen each and every Saturday in 2016. But after a season which he played out of position and his production suffered because of it, the Cowboys were able to grab a potential pass-rushing gem on day three of the 2018 draft.

Armstrong is a freakish - but raw - athlete that possesses 34 3/4” arms to go along with his 6-foot-4 and 257 pound frame and a quick burst which makes him difficult for any offensive tackle to keep from getting into the backfield. While he is a little light for a 4-3 defensive end, Armstrong makes up for it with his quick first step and by using his hands to get by offensive tackles. As the only elite player on the Kansas roster, Armstrong was the focal point of scouting reports and often had to battle double-teams.

There is this, too:

Dorance Armstrong has a high ceiling and the skill-set to flourish under Rod Marinelli in Dallas. The Cowboys found a franchise quarterback in the fourth-round of the 2016 draft; have they found a franchise pass rusher this time around?

Games watched: Texas Tech (2016, 2017), Oklahoma (2016), West Virginia (2017)