It didn’t happen overnight, but the Dallas Cowboys are stacked along the defensive line. The team kept 10 defensive linemen on the roster and that doesn’t even include the two edge rushers who are currently serving a suspension - Robert Quinn and Randy Gregory. The arsenal of pass rushers the Cowboys have this seasons consist of reliable veterans, rising stars, and young guys who are still developing their craft. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching this group go after the quarterback this season.
It’s unclear where everyone will be lining up or how many snaps each player will get. There are several players who have the potential to make a big impact this season. Here are six players who have the best chances to rack up the most sacks this season.
How’d he get here? 2nd round (34th overall) in 2014 (Cowboys traded up)
Career high sacks: 14.5 (2017)
DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the top defensive ends in the league, so it goes without saying that Tank is expected to be the team leader in sacks. After an All-Pro season a couple years ago, Lawrence has established himself as a formidable beast in the trenches. The combination of talent, determination, and soul-snatching mentality make him an absolute nightmare for opposing tackles.
Prediction: 12.5 sacks. For Tank, his effectiveness cannot be measured by sacks alone as he’s also very disrupted against the run.
How’d he get here? Free agent signing, 2019
Career high sacks: 8.0 (2016, with the Detroit Lions)
Full disclosure - Kerry Hyder was my free agent pet cat this summer so if it seems like I’m expressing too much excitement for a guy who’s only making $1M this year, there’s a reason for it. Hyder has made the most of his chances in camp, and he’s shown up on tape throughout the preseason. He played out of position his last year in Detroit and a change of scenery could be what he needs. Hyder’s only a couple years removed from a strong eight-sack season, and under the tutelage of Rod Marinelli, this could be a big year for him. He’s already been getting reps both inside and outside, so don’t be surprised if he sees plenty of playing time, allowing those sacks to slowly pile up.
Prediction: 7.0 sacks. The Quinn suspension is just enough of an opportunity to get his foot in the door, making it hard for the coaching staff to keep him off the field.
How’d he get here? Acquired in trade for a 6th-round pick (2020) to the Dolphins
Career high sacks: 19.0 sacks (2013)
You have to like the Cowboys low-cost trade to the Miami Dolphins to land a strong edge rusher in Robert Quinn. It showed this team wasn’t afraid to load up and make a run at the title. Quinn is a little older, but he’s got some good pass rushing skills that will round out a nice book end, opposite Tank.
Unfortunately, a suspension will cause him to get off to a slow start, but if there’s a silver lining, it allows him extra time to get that hand healed up. He may be a little late to the party, but look for Quinn to be ready to stack sacking quarterbacks in Week 3.
Prediction: 6.0 sacks. Temper your expectations, but also savor what this proven veteran brings to the defense.
How’d he get here? 3rd round (67th overall) in 2016
Career high sacks: 5.0 (2016)
While Hyder is my most recent new guy crush, good ol’ Collins has been one of my favorites from the get-go. Foot injuries have been his kryptonite each year; however they usually occur during camp allowing him time to be ready for the regular season. That wasn’t the case last year as Collins missed action for the first time in his career when he was unavailable for two games.
Collins is healthy now and he’s been one of the best players in training damp. Look for him to have a breakout season that may include a career new high in sacks.
Prediction: 5.5 sacks. This doesn’t seem like a lot but that’s pretty solid from the DT spot. Plus, Collins’ push in the middle will lure quarterbacks into the arms of other pass rushers.
How’d he get here? 4th round (116th overall) in 2018
Career high sacks: 0.5 (2018)
Last season, the rookie from Kansas managed to play 27% of the defensive snaps, which was pretty respectable considering Randy Gregory was finally available and seeing playing time. Armstrong was still pretty low on the totem pole as Gregory, Tyrone Crawford, and Taco Charlton were all given more reps.
The good news is Armstrong has shown a lot of improvement and may have jumped Charlton in the pecking order. The addition of Quinn and Hyder will cut into his playing time some, but he’s got real chance to make more of a splash this season if he keeps playing the way he’s been playing. Buy your Armstrong stock now while you can, because it’s only going to keep rising.
Prediction: 4.0 sacks. The opportunity to get more is there, but unless someone gets hurt, the depth of this group will limit his playing time some.
How’d he get here? 3rd round (81st overall) in 2012
Career high sacks: 5.5 (2018)
Tyrone Crawford is one of the most respected figures in the Cowboys locker room, and it’s real easy to forget about what he does on the field. Crawford’s versatility gives Marinelli the sense that he has extra defensive linemen at his disposal. That’s a great description of Crawford as he can play inside and out, allowing the team to assemble the best quartet of players based on the given down and distance.
Crawford’s playing time may see a dip as the presence of Quinn on the edge, Collins at 3-tech, and Hyder earning extra reps - all will make a difference. But he’ll still get the veteran treatment and see plenty of action to make splash plays for this defense.
Prediction: 3.5 sacks. It’s not sexy. It’s not Sportscenter-worthy. It’s just Crawford.
You may have noticed that Taco Charlton didn’t make it in the top six. He may very well have a good season and be right in the thick of things, especially if he plays more like he did in that third preseason against the Texans. But he was left off for two reasons. First, the Cowboys already went long at defensive end, keeping six players. With Quinn returning, that’s seven. It seems like someone is going to have to go and Charlton may be a guy who gets traded prior to Quinn being reinstated. And second, even if he sticks around, when is he going to get reps? It’s hard seeing him take playing time away from some of these other players who have demonstrated more consistent play. And if they’re going to just stash the last guy for development purposes, why not keep Joe Jackson instead who has more potential with a year one-to-two growth expansion?