Continuing our series of looking at positional groups. Today, we look at the defensive line in Dallas.
The Cowboys have built a pretty strong defense with the addition of Kris Richard. Richard’s and Rod Marinelli’s game plans, and coaching, have resulted in improvements for nearly every positional group on their side of the ball.
DeMarcus Lawrence is playing like one of the best pass rushers in football, the linebackers have developed into one of the better duos in the league, and the corners have all had their moments.
We will focus on the men in the trenches in today’s piece. While there are some questions — such as Randy Gregory’s availability in 2019 — Marinelli has to be excited about who he has coming back and who the team has added through the draft, free agency, and on the trade market.
DeMarcus Lawrence cashed in on a well-deserved pay day this offseason. When healthy, Lawrence has proven that he can terrorize opposing offensive tackles and quarterbacks each and every week. DLaw finished the 2018 campaign with 64 total tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss, 10.5 sacks, and 23 QB hits. With the ink dry, here is hoping Tank will be healthy enough when the season comes around.
Across from DLaw on the defensive line is new acquisition Robert Quinn. Quinn comes to Dallas from the Miami Dolphins following a seven-year stint with the Rams. The former 14th selection of the 2011 NFL draft is coming off a season in which he totaled 38 tackles, nine TFLs, 6.5 sacks, and 15 QB hits. Quinn’s presence gives Marinelli another player that get into the backfield and create havoc, which should take pressure off of Lawrence.
Randy Gregory is up in the air, and the team added Joe Jackson out of Miami and Jalen Jelks from Oregon in the later rounds of the draft this April. Jelks is seen as a bit of a sleeper by some in the scouting community, thanks in large part to his size and motor. Jason Garrett was certainly excited about the pick:
“There is so much to like about this guy,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of Jelks. “He’s big, long, athletic, plays with a relentless spirit, great motor, great energy, around the ball a lot. Again, he plays the right way, has a lot of the traits we’re looking for in our defensive linemen.”
Is this the year that Taco Charlton emerges? Will Dorance Armstrong take the next step after showing promise in limited action during his rookie season? And what will Kerry Hyder bring to Dallas?
There should be more competition at the defensive tackle spot than we have seen in years past. Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins and Antuwan Woods are all back in the fold and ready to make a jump in the second year of the Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard duo.
One of the bigger needs, though, was finding another defensive tackle, either through free agency or the draft. The team passed on taking a safety with its first pick in the draft in favor of UCF’s Trysten Hill. Hill ended his career in Orlando by making 36 tackles, 10.5 of which were behind the scrimmage, and getting to the quarterback on three occasions. You can read Dane Brugler’s scouting report here:
Hill had a strong game against Auburn in the 2018 Peach Bowl:
UCF NG 9 Trysten Hill was consistently disruptive vs Auburn. Great leverage. Uses hands well. High energy. NFL guy. pic.twitter.com/cMppnQkEKI— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) January 5, 2018
Elsewhere, free agent signee Christian Covington and undrafted free agents Daniel Ross and Daniel Wise will battle to get into the rotation. Wise was recently named the team’s ‘most exciting UDFA addition’ by Bleacher Report.
The strength of the Dallas Cowboys defense is its defensive line. Undrafted interior defender Daniel Wise has the potential to make that line even better as a rotational player. The Kansas product is a stout 6’3” and 281 pounds and possesses enough attacking ability to disrupt pass plays from the middle.
”He is a busy-body pass rusher with the ability to find the edge early and then create his rush counters with footwork and agility,” NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote of Wise.
While Wise is not a pure pass-rusher, he is versatile, just like his brother, New England Patriot Deatrich Wise. In 2018, he produced 34 total tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and five sacks. At the very least, he should stick to the roster as a backup.
We all know that a pass rush is a defensive back’s best friend. They also need to control the run, something they did for most of the year in 2018 but struggled with later in the season. Can the Cowboys’ defensive line take the next step in 2019?