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Positional Spotlight: Cowboys defensive line must take advantage of Panthers offensive line & pressure Cam Newton

Can Cowboys defensive line get to Cam Newton by bruising Panther’s ailing offensive line

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

When you look at this upcoming matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers, you first notice how banged up the Panthers could be on their offensive line. Starting left tackle Matt Kalil has been placed on injured reserve at least for the next eight weeks. Second-year player Taylor Moton will step in at left tackle, he played 16 games as a rookie but will be making his first start against the Cowboys.

Daryl Williams and Amini Silatolu both returned to practice in a limited capacity, both guys are dealing with knee issues. Williams narrowly escaped IR to start the season, coming off a torn MCL and dislocated patella. Silatolu is dealing with torn meniscus and their other left guard Brendan Mahon missed Wednesday’s practice with a neck injury. The Panthers will be shuffling a lot alongside their offensive line for week one which should favor the Cowboys’ pass rush.

Still, in the past, we’ve seen games against weaker offensive lines, thinking that the Cowboys were ready and they haven’t lived up to those expectations. The Cowboys had one premier pass rusher in 2017 and that was DeMarcus Lawrence. Not only did he have 14.5 sacks but Lawrence generated 160 yards lost on his sacks. That sack yardage was the most in the NFL over a 15-year period, they feel great about Tank Lawrence. What they needed more than anything was a another pass rushing presence next to Lawrence, which they hope to have found in Randy Gregory.

Gregory is the prototypical right end that brings speed off the edge and everything that we saw during the preseason leads you to believe that this combination could be lethal. Behind Gregory and Lawrence are second-year player Taco Charlton and rookie Dorance Armstrong. Both guys have shown good edge rushing abilities when coming in to spell the starters.

The Cowboys must be able to pressure Cam Newton and the current state of the Panthers offensive line certainly would suggest that they will get their opportunities. Where the defensive line needs guys to step up is at the defensive tackle position. The Panthers will test the Cowboys’ run defense in a multitude of ways with Christian McCaffery, who’s a better pass catcher out of the backfield. They also have CJ Anderson, who tore up this defense a year ago in Denver. Then there is the sweet feet of Cam Newton to contend with. Maliek Collins and Tyrone Crawford will have to get push at the point of attack. They cannot allow Trai Turner and Ryan Kalil to bully them inside or it won’t matter what the edge rushers can do.

The Panthers offensive line is going to get themselves ready for this matchup even if they know they may be outmatched. It’s up to the Dallas Cowboys defensive line to get to the quarterback and disrupt any open lanes for the skill players. If the Cowboys can’t beat their blockers, Cam Newton will make them pay. If you can pressure Newton, you can force him into mistakes. Newton has 94 interceptions and 21 fumbles in seven seasons. The Cowboys have to get pressure on Cam with their front line because that’s what is going to help this young defense handle the rest of the Panthers offense.

Before we can think about the cornerbacks covering downfield or the linebackers cleaning up the middle, it all starts with the defensive line. Can Antwaun Woods and Daniel Ross clog up rushing lanes? Can Collins and Crawford collapse the pocket? Can DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong bully the bookends around the edge? All of this is the key to beating the Carolina Panthers because they essentially want to attack the Cowboys like the Cowboys want to attack them with run/pass options. This Cowboys defensive line has been talked about all training camp long, let’s see how they do when the heat is on these “Hot Boys”.

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