On Saturday night, when the Cowboys meet the 49ers for a preseason game, something magnificent will happen. Football players will play, and there will be no holding back. It’s all-out effort with full physical interaction. That’s the only way to really judge a player. Actual game-play. Practices, OTAs, minicamps, training camps, it’s all good for teaching and forming an early opinion, but when the other team is trying to take your head off, it gets real.
Saturday night will give us our first real glimpse of the Cowboys for 2019, and the battles for spots on the 53-man roster will intensify. Show out in semi-real games and your stock will rise. And the one spot on the Cowboys defense where down-roster players really need to step up is at defensive end.
DannyPhantom summed it up eloquently in a tweet.
The Cowboys top four defensive ends are unavailable:— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 8, 2019
DeMarcus Lawrence PUP
Robert Quinn SUSP
Tyrone Crawford PUP
Randy Gregory SUSP
The next five guys up have a combined 2.5 sacks last year:
Dorance Armstrong 0.5
Taco Charlton 1.0
Kerry Hyder 1.0
Joe Jackson 0
Jalen Jelks 0
The recent injury/suspension combo for Robert Quinn has shined a light on a position where the Cowboys could either be really good, or really weak, in the first weeks of the season.
The key here is obviously DeMarcus Lawrence. If he recovers from his shoulder surgery and plays in Week 1, then the Cowboys are at least okay. You would hope Lawrence could get in a week or two of practice before the season, but even a rusty Lawrence is better that most defensive ends. If Tyrone Crawford returns to practice when the Cowboys return to Dallas later this month, then things get even better. Crawford isn’t a star, but he is steady. Paired with Lawrence, the Cowboys have an okay starting duo. But nothing is for certain when recovering from injury, and it’s still possible the NFL could act on Crawford’s offseason bar fight.
With Quinn definitely out for a couple of weeks, and Randy Gregory not really closer to a return, the Cowboys will need depth at a minimum. If for some reason either Lawrence or Crawford can’t go, they will need a starter. Saturday night, we get a good first look at who will be the top backups at defensive end.
Taco Charlton: The Cowboys first-rounder from 2017 is starting to test the patience of all involved. He certainly tested Rod Marinelli’s patience last year when he was effectively benched for poor attitude. After a stern talking to from Marinelli over the offseason, maybe Charlton will finally fulfill his potential. He has the physical tools to be effective, but technique and drive are the test.
Dorance Armstrong: After an okay rookie season, Armstrong is receiving some real notice in training camp. He famously cooked both Tyron Smith and La’el Collins in one-on-one drills. Jason Garrett recently spoke about his good camp and how Armstrong doesn’t overwhelm with physical traits, but is starting to refine his technique.
Kerry Hyder: Don’t sleep on the veteran. Of all these backup guys, he’s the one who has proven it during an actual NFL season. You put together eight sacks in a season and you deserve notice. After seasons of injury and playing out of position, the versatile vet is ready to make his case.
Joe Jackson: One of two drafted rookies at the position, Jackson is the one creating training camp headlines. Jerry Jones singled him out for his training camp and in particular his performance at the Blue/White scrimmage. Jason Garrett concurred and right now he’s the darling of the group.
Jalen Jelks: The other drafted rookie, Jelks has created much buzz yet. He may be more of a project who needs more strength for the NFL rigors, but he could also be a guy that just waits for the lights to go on to perform. He looks like the odd-man out so far but he still has time to change that perception.
We’ll drop all those guys in the sorting hat and see what happens on Saturday night. Who ya got as the winner of the roster battle come Sunday morning?
Which backup defensive end will have the biggest game against the 49ers?
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