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The Cowboys DeMarcus Lawrence is quietly one of the best defensive players in the league

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Since the departure of DeMarcus Ware, the Dallas Cowboys have been on the look out for their next star pass rusher. In 2014, the team traded away their third-round pick to move up in the second round so they could select Boise State’s DeMarcus Lawrence. From one DeMarcus to another, the Cowboys had landed a talented defensive end, only they didn’t realize it right away. Lawrence battled injuries early in his career, but when he was healthy, he was very good.

There isn’t much question that Lawrence has been one of the best edge rushers in the league over the last couple seasons. That’s why the team gave him a five-year, $105 million contract extension. But as good as he is, it’s very possible there’s still a lot more left in this Tank.

On Saturday at SportsCon 2019 in Dallas, Lawrence made it clear that he has his sights set on something big.

“My goal is to be the best that’s ever played this game,”

These types of statements aren’t unusual for players who are extremely confident, especially if they’re already playing at a high level. Considering his “soul-snatching” type comments in the past, there’s never been a lack of confidence from Lawrence. While the belief in himself is high, there are a lot of good reasons to believe he’s only scratched the surface.

He’s instinctive

One of the great things about Lawrence is he’s not just your “pin your ears back and attack the quarterback” pass rusher. Tank is very good against the run as well. His sack totals are great, but he also tied for the league lead last year for the most stops at or behind the line of scrimmage against the run.

What’s impressive about this stat is that opponents tend to run away from Lawrence, so this speaks to what type of impact he has in the running game. The Cowboys were one of the top rushing defenses in the league last year and finished tied for fourth with 3.8 yards allowed per attempt. The sacks are sexy, but Lawrence is one of the most effective run-stopping defenders in the league.

Lawrence isn’t the type of pass rusher that just chases quarterbacks with reckless abandonment. He’s very attuned to what’s going on. He plays the play. Tank is very good at keeping his head up and never gets lost in what’s going on. He doesn’t over-pursue and uses his hands extremely well to shed defenders. Lawrence always has a plan and has the wherewithal to make his actions count. His football IQ was on full display when he got his first career interception last season.

He’s the big fundamental

Sure, it’s another Texas superstar that holds the licensing rights to that nickname, but similar to the San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan, Lawrence’s greatness is attributed to how fundamentally sound he is. Don’t get me wrong, Tank is a good athlete, but he doesn’t blow you away with freakish metrics. His spider chart is rather blah, but Lawrence is a craftsman and he’s done an outstanding job developing his game.

Lawrence wins with an arsenal of pass rushing techniques. He’s got strong hands and uses them really well. He’ll use his right arm to chop the hands of his blocker to open up a path around the edge. He’s got good push and uses power and speed to penetrate through creases. Lawrence has happy feet and can weave in and out of lanes, avoiding blockers. And he knows how to finish. As he’s closing, he’ll always swipe at the ball which has made him one of the best at forcing fumbles.

He’s got a champion’s mentality

Even before his huge sack numbers started showing up in the stat sheet, Tank was regarded as one of the top leaders in the locker room. He works extremely hard, and when younger players see him going full speed to chase down a runner from the opposite side, that’s going to leave an impression.

Lawrence isn’t the quiet guy who’s all smiles like the DeMarcus before him. Instead, he comes across a little abrasive at times. He’s made it clear he doesn’t like quarterbacks, and plays with the mentality that he’s going to do everything he can to punish his opponents. There is definitely some swagger to his game, but it brings about a fire in him that translates all over the field.

Lawrence is one of the biggest splash-making players in the league, and his impact can get lost at times as his teammates around him cash in on his dirty work. Whether it’s taking on double teams, forcing errant throws, or running a quarterback into the arms of his teammate - Lawrence has made a career of making his teammates look good. And he’s not a guy who gets bent out of shape when others are getting the credit. He just goes out there and plays hard, and has quietly become one of the most disruptive players in the league.

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