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State of the Cowboys roster: How much better do you feel about the defensive line?

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How strong is the Cowboys defensive line headed into 2019?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

[In this series, we’ll take a look at the additions and subtractions at every position on the Dallas Cowboys roster. We’ll compare where the Cowboys were to where they currently sit and ask the ultimate question - did the Cowboys improve or not? In other words, do you feel better about the state of the roster going into the 2019 season?]

DEFENSIVE LINE

2018 Season: 2019 Season:
LE DeMarcus Lawrence - 15 starts, Pro Bowl LE DeMarcus Lawrence
DT Maliek Collins - 9 starts DT Maliek Collins
DT Antwaun Woods - 15 starts DT Antwaun Woods
RE Tyrone Crawford - 15 starts RE Tyrone Crawford
DE Taco Charlton - 11 games, 7 starts DE Robert Quinn - Trade w/ MIA, one-year, $8M
DE Dorance Armstrong- 15 games, 1 start DE Taco Charlton
DE Randy Gregory - 14 games, 1 starts DE Randy Gregory
DT Caraun Reid - 10 games, 1 start DE Dorance Armstrong
DT Daniel Ross - 13 games DT Christian Covington - FA signing, one-year, $2.5M
DT David Irving - 2 games DL Kerry Hyder - FA signing, one-year, $1M
DL Christian Ringo - 1 game DT Trysten Hill - 2nd Round Pick (UCF)
- DE Joe Jackson - 5th Round Pick (MIA)
- DE Jalen Jelks - 7th Round Pick (ORE)
- DT Daniel Ross
- DE Shakir Soto - Signed to futures deal
- DT Daniel Wise - UDFA (KAN)
- DT Ricky Walker - UDFA (VA Tech)

2018 PRODUCTION

2018 STATS TCKL TFL SCK QB HIT FF PD INT
DeMarcus Lawrence 64 15 10.5 23 2 1 1
Maliek Collins 19 5 3 8 - - -
Antwaun Woods 34 2 1.5 5 - 1 -
Tyrone Crawford 34 4 5.5 12 1 2 0
Taco Charlton 27 5 1 4 - 1 -
Dorance Armstrong 13 5 0.5 3 - - -
Randy Gregory 25 7 6 15 2 - -
Caraun Reid 10 1 0.5 3 1 - -
Daniel Ross 14 3 1 7 1 - -
David Irving 4 2 1 2 - - -
Christian Ringo - - - - - - -

The Cowboys have worked overtime on this defensive line as they started the offseason with a few things up in the air. David Irving is no longer a part of the equation for the Cowboys. Randy Gregory’s timetable for his suspension is unknown though the team feels good about a return in 2019. Tyrone Crawford’s status is still unsettled as he faces charges for uncharacteristically bad decision-making outside of a night club.

The Cowboys added lots of resources in both free agency and the draft. DeMarcus Lawrence is a happy-camper as he received a lucrative extension and is one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL. The Cowboys struck a trade to bring in Robert Quinn, who may have had a few sub-par years due to injury and scheme changes. Still, Quinn is a former All-Pro with the skins on the wall to help the Cowboys add juice to the pass rush. The organization is very optimistic that Gregory will factor in and he had a decent year, considering his history.

Taco Charlton is facing a very crucial season where he will have to step up to the plate and swing. In his third year, he’s yet to really find any consistency and has often found himself in Rod Marinelli’s doghouse. This is going to be a big year for him because there is competition on the roster ready to seize the opportunity if Charlton can’t. Dorance Armstrong will have a year of work under his belt as he looks to battle for more playing time.

Where Dallas is hoping to find more production is on the interior of their defensive line. Maliek Collins has turned out to be a very solid third-round pick when healthy and he’ll have the upper hand to start at one of the tackle spots. Antwaun Woods finally found the right team and the right role for himself when he was paired with Rod Marinelli. In free agency, the Cowboys quietly grabbed two very productive rotational linemen in Kerry Hyder and Christian Covington. Both guys player with high-intensity and could start if needed.

Trysten Hill, the Cowboys’ first draft choice, might be a rookie but the coaches are eager to add his elite first-step quickness to the starting lineup. Hill still has a lot of polishing to do when it comes to being a complete player but his traits will allow him to get plenty of experience early on. The Cowboys really have a soft spot for guys like Joe Jackson that seem to always find a way to produce despite the lack of athleticism. Jalen Jelks fits a very particular breed for Marinelli, that of the edge rusher with a freakish athletic profile. Jelks is very raw but he might turn a few heads based on his ability to bend and play with violence on the edge. Daniel Ross will have to battle it out with rookie UDFA prospects Ricky Walker and Daniel Wise.

Conclusion: For the mess the Cowboys started in to where they are now, they have made considerable efforts to improve this unit. It has the potential to be one of the better defensive lines in all of football and certainly the best the Cowboys have put out there over the last few seasons. It’s all about pass rush and the Cowboys will have to affect the opposing quarterback to make a return trip to the postseason. The story here is going to be about which guys step up to help the new $100-million-dollar man, Tank Lawrence. At the very least, these Cowboys have a handful of candidates.