News broke late last week that fourth-year defensive tackle, David Irving, will be suspended the first four games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. This will make it back-to-back years in which Irving will start the season out on the team’s “suspended list”. Our very own front page writer Michael Sisemore wrote this article last week on who he expects to take over in Irving’s absence.
Of course, in Irving’s absence, Jason Garrett’s speech to the team will be the same ol’, same ol’ “next man up” talk that he seems to be giving more than he’d like for a coach whose favorite phrase to describe his players is “right kind of guy”. But in this instance, he’s right. The Cowboys defense will be without Irving and his seven-sacks in 2018 for the first-four games of the season. That isn’t a long enough absence that will make the Cowboys’ front office go out an add a high-level player to take his place. Instead, look for Rod Marinelli to find another one of the “orphans” on the roster to take over as a key piece to the interior defensive line rotation until Irving is eligible to return against the Houston Texans in week five.
The four candidates
Irving’s absence opens up an opportunity for Maliek Collins to slide back into the position he started his career off at as a rookie. Collins entered his rookie season as a guy who was hoping to get a few snaps here and a few snaps there, but ended up winning the starting 3-technique job after making plenty of nice plays rushing the passer and defending the run. Last year, Rod Marinelli decided to move Collins over to the 1-technique spot after Stephen Paea retired. Now that Irving is out of the picture for four weeks, this is a perfect opportunity for Collins to regain his crown as the starting 3-tech as long as he can recover from the broken foot that has kept him sidelined since the start of OTA’s.
I’m sure you’re thinking that Brian Price doesn’t belong on this list because he’s more of a 1-technique than a 3-technique, and you are exactly right. But how the suspension could benefit Price the most is if Marinelli does in fact decide to move Maliek Collins back to the 3, which would then open up a hole at the 1. That’s where Brian Price comes in. Price played 1-technique for the Cowboys in 2017 before injuring his knee in week nine against the Chiefs. Price had actually been impressive making plays against the run, and provided a surprising bit of juice as a pass rusher before being placed on injured reserve. Price signed a two-year extension with the Cowboys this offseason, so there’s obviously mutual interest there between both parties. The Cowboys hope Brian Price can return to the level he was playing at last season before finding himself on IR.
The former Tennessee Titan signed with the Cowboys just a few weeks ago hoping he could come in and compete for a roster spot at 1-technique. Due to the David Irving suspension, Woods may have just been gifted a roster spot for at least the first four weeks of the season. Woods is the definition of a 1-technique, a massive body in the middle of the defensive line that is a tough man to move off-the ball. Woods isn’t a flashy player by any means, but he can be a quality rotational nose-tackle who can be effective defending the run.
Tyrone Crawford started his career off in Dallas as a do-it-all defensive lineman who can play both inside and outside. When watching him on tape, he seems to be more effective when playing as an interior defensive lineman. Crawford lacks the ideal speed and explosiveness to beat offensive tackles, but is just quick enough to be disruptive rushing from the 3-technique position. In 2015, Tyrone Crawford recorded his career-high in sacks with five, and he played a percentage of his snaps from the 3-technique in 2015 with DeMarcus Lawrence, Jeremy Mincey, and David Irving getting a lot of time at defensive end.
Of course, the overall talent of the defensive line is much better with David Irving in the lineup, but without him, expect this defensive line to still be effective getting after the quarterback and playing the run.
Which interior defensive lineman do you think benefits most from the Irving suspension? Let us know in the comment section below!