“In the NFL, if you aren’t recording sacks, you aren’t any good.” - NFL Fan
This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it’s one of the reasons DeMarcus Lawrence is being falsely criticized so far this season. Heading into Week 15, Lawrence is second on the team in sacks with just five, first on the team in hurries, and second on the team in pressures, all while being double-teamed more than almost every other EDGE player in the NFL.
Overdue for an update on these.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) December 12, 2019
Double team rate as an edge rusher (x) by pass rush win rate as an edge rusher (y).
PRWR = rate pass rusher beats blocker in 2.5 seconds.
ESPN stats, NGS data. pic.twitter.com/L83ErcibxR
When turning on the tape, DeMarcus Lawrence is still the most impactful player on the Cowboys defense. While it may not always come with a sack, Lawrence sees the most double-teams, chips, and attention from opposing offenses around the NFL, and Sunday’s game against the Rams was a perfect example. Through a discussion with a fan on twitter, I was told to go back and “watch the game”, so like I do every week, that’s exactly what I did, and like always, came away very impressed with Lawrence’s impact in a blowout win.
If you've watched the Rams here recently, you would've noticed how good Tyler Higbee has been. On 3rd and 10, Higbee is a non-factor in this play. Why? Because McVay uses him to chip DeMarcus Lawrence, instead of using him as a receiving weapon.#WatchTheGame pic.twitter.com/Pjez0xhD6x— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) December 18, 2019
When preparing for the Rams, leading up to Week 14, it was hard to ignore #89, Tyler Higbee. Higbee, a veteran TE for the Rams, has taken over the TE1 role in Los Angeles since Gerald Everett went down with an injury. Since taking over, Higbee has been the Rams most dynamic receiving option even with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Brandin Cooks also options on offense. Higbee had another big day against the Cowboys, but it was mainly because of the garbage time receptions and yards he picked up late in the fourth quarter.
In the first half, he spent a lot of his time helping block DeMarcus Lawrence. On this third and long, Higbee is forced to delay his route because he has to first focus on getting a good chip on Lawrence. Higbee does his job of forcing Lawrence out wide, and keeping him away from Jared Goff, but there’s only one issue... Goff’s favorite target over the last month of the season is now running a three-yard route on a third and 10. Why? Because Sean McVay prioritized getting Lawrence blocked up, and not getting his receivers to the sticks.
Another 3rd and long.— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) December 18, 2019
Gurley has to focus on chipping DeMarcus Lawrence out of the backfield, which throws off the timing with Bennett getting pressure because there isn't a RB to help pass protect.
Tank blows this up, without even getting into the pocket.#WatchTheGame pic.twitter.com/OBnF6pY9dI
Here’s another third and long from the Rams that results in an incompletion. Was it because of a DeMarcus Lawrence sack? No. Was it because Lawrence dusted the RT off the snap and pressured Goff? No. But it was because McVay again takes a receiving weapon out of the play to chip Lawrence before getting into his route.
McVay uses Todd Gurley here as the chip player, and Gurley gets a nice lick on Tank working off the left side. But in doing so, Gurley also takes time to get out into the flat for the check down option for Goff. With Michael Bennett bringing pressure from the interior, and DeMarcus Lawrence throwing off Gurley and Goff’s timing, the ball falls harmlessly to the ground when Gurley finally gets his head around after completing his route, after being slowed by Lawrence. This is just one of many plays DeMarcus Lawrence impacts without getting a sack, pressure, or QB hit.
DeMarcus Lawrence's pressure working off the stunt forced Goff to throw the ball earlier than he needed too. Ball should have been picked by Heath thanks to Tank's pressure.#WatchTheGame pic.twitter.com/sajNGyy9BU— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) December 18, 2019
Throughout the year, Lawrence’s pressures, and sacks have resulted in turnovers for the defense. On Sunday, Lawrence’s pressure and QB hit resulted in an errant throw, that should have been picked off by Jeff Heath.
Lawrence is working of a twist here on the left side with Maliek Collins. Collins does an awesome job of blowing up the RT while also forcing the RG into free-space which allows Lawrence to work around the twist and have a nice runway to the quarterback. Lawrence’s pressure effects Goff’s timing and accuracy, which should have resulted in an interception for the Cowboys defense.
Lawrence wins with his euro-step cross chop.— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) December 18, 2019
Kupp's coming open across the middle of the field, but Goff has to get rid of the football due to Tank and Quinn's pressure.#WatchTheGame pic.twitter.com/hjre5Wfn5M
Just because Lawrence isn’t recording sacks, doesn’t mean that he isn’t doing his job as a pass rusher. Here DeMarcus Lawrence perfectly executes his euro-step cross chop and beats Bobby Evans around the edge.
Lawrence, after gaining the corner, was able to flatten out his rush path and get to Jared Goff as he’s releasing the football. This has happened to Lawrence a bunch this year, where he’s just a tick too late of recording a sack/stripped sack.
You may look at these clips and still say that DeMarcus Lawrence has disappointed, and that’s okay, but when you turn on the tape Lawrence is still making a big impact for this defense on a high percentage of snaps.