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Cowboys news: DeMarcus Lawrence might not have the sacks, but he is disruptive

Plus, more news on America’s Team.

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Don’t judge Dallas Cowboys’ DeMarcus Lawrence by sack totals alone - Todd Archer, ESPN

DeMarcus Lawrence is not stacking up sacks, but he is being disruptive.

But don’t judge Lawrence by his sack totals alone. Judge his total game.

“The word impact is probably a better valuation platform to work off of,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “Does he impact the game for not only individual production but the ability to make the players better around him? ... He’s an impact-type player. What you don’t want is you don’t want players that play for individual statistics, because there’s so much more to the game.”

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For this season, Lawrence’s 4.5 sacks are tied for 50th in the NFL but his six tackles for loss lead the Cowboys, as do his 28 quarterback pressures. He is tied for the team lead with three forced fumbles. He has been credited with 44 tackles.

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In ESPN’s pass rush win rate metric, Lawrence ranks sixth in the NFL. He has won 23.1% of pass rushes. Only Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt, Buffalo’s Jerry Hughes, Cleveland’s Myles Garrett, Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina’s Brian Burns have a better percentage among edge players.

In the run stop win rate metric for edge players, Lawrence ranks 11th.

Zeke On Final Three Games: I’m A Competitor - Jonny Auping, Dallascowboys.com

The Cowboys running back has no plan to rest in these last three games.

“When you look at injuries we’ve had, from LC [La’el Collins] and Tyron [Smith], to Dak [Prescott], to Blake Jarwin, we’ve had a lot of guys that were going to be starters but aren’t playing because of injuries.” Elliott doesn’t plan on his name joining that list. He wants to play in games, even if his practices look a little different. Last week he was a limited participant, and Wednesday he said he also did some individual work with the athletic training staff, trying to increase his range of motion in preparation for Sunday’s game.

Last Sunday, the Cowboys felt the feeling of victory for the first time in many weeks, and Elliott wants more. “It would feel good to stack some success and stack some victories,” he said. But ultimately, the topics of effort and finish should yield obvious answers as long as the standings look the way they do.

“We have three games,” Elliott stated. “We’re still in it. We’re not out of it. So these last three games are important. We want to win these three games so we can put ourselves in a position to win the division.”

Tom Landry or Jimmy Johnson? Mike McCarthy’s first Cowboys season has much deeper Dave Campo vibes - Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas Morning News

Mike McCarthy’s first season as head coach has led to some bad vibes.

While not as destitute in 1989, the Cowboys were coming off a 3-13 season, an ownership change that completely altered the front office, and Jimmy and Jerry were determined to create a roster of young players with hope, not veterans on their way out. So while the Herschel Walker trade in October set a path for a bright future, it all but negated the chance for multiple wins in Johnson’s inaugural 1-15 season.

Those two situations have virtually nothing in common with McCarthy inheriting a team that got Jason Garrett fired for going 8-8. Expectations were higher for immediate improvement. And, of course, it all got derailed early in the schedule when Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Blake Jarwin and others were scratched from the offensive depth chart for the season.

In that sense, I give you Dave Campo, who also took over a team that got its coach fired by going 8-8. The only difference was that Chan Gailey’s club made the playoffs in 1999, even if a 27-10 loss in Minnesota produced a quick exit. Gailey is, in fact, the last Cowboys coach to make consecutive playoff trips. Think about that.

3 Candidates the Dallas Cowboys Should Consider for Defensive Coordinator - John Williams, Inside The Star

If Mike Nolan goes, who replaces him?

Wade Phillips...A name that is going to be thrown around a ton over the next month or so is that of former Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Wade Phillips. Phillips is fondly remembered for his defensive scheme that helped the Cowboys find success in the mid-2000s.

Those his head coaching tenure didn’t fare so well, he went on to have several more fantastic seasons coaching defenses, including helping the Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl and get to another one with the Los Angeles Rams.

Though teams run nickel as their base defense in the modern NFL, coaching philosophies and schemes still matter and Wade Phillips has been one of the best defensive coordinators of the last 20-30 years. His defenses have finished in the top 10 in scoring defense 11 times since 2000, including the 2006 San Diego Chargers who finished number one in the NFL in scoring defense. Only six times in the last 20 seasons has a defense of his finished outside the top 20. That’s a ton of consistency as the NFL has evolved into a passing league before our very eyes. While his end with the Cowboys was met with disappointment, Phillips has remained a popular figure among Cowboys fans.

Film room: 3 potential defensive tackle targets for the Dallas Cowboys in the 2021 NFL draft - John Owning, Dallas Morning News

Some more draft knowledge. This time focused on defensive tackles.

Alim McNeill, NC State. 2020 stats (11 games through Dec. 14): 17 tackles, 12 pressures, 14 stops.

Listed at 6-2, 320 pounds, Alim McNeill is a squatty but powerfully built nose tackle who could help solidify Dallas’ interior run defense with experience.

McNeill plays primarily as a zero-technique nose tackle who aligns head-up on centers, whose lives are made miserable the entire time McNeill is on the field. Given his role, McNeill doesn’t stuff the stat sheet, but don’t let that fool you -- his impact is felt when he’s in the game.

The 4 best surprises for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020 - Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat

Who has surprised you most in 2020?

Donovan Wilson, S....Cowboy fans got a taste of what kind of playmaker 2019 sixth-round safety Donovan Wilson could be during the preseason last year. The former Aggie racked up an incredible three interceptions in those exhibition contests, exciting fans in the process thinking maybe Dallas had finally found the defensive difference-maker their secondary so desperately needed.

Instead, Wilson hardly saw the field as a rookie in former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s system. He played a mere 16 defensive snaps in 11 games and was regulated to special teams duty.

Despite a new regime in Dallas, and a new defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan, it seemed to be more of the same for Wilson in his second season. Former first-round safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was brought in as a free agent in the offseason. When Clinton-Dix failed to impress, it was Darian Thompson, not Wilson, who would start alongside Xavier Woods for the team’s first four games of the season. But everything changed in the Cowboys’ Week Four matchup against the Cleveland Browns. Wilson was allowed to play a whopping 71 defensive snaps after not playing a single one in the team’s first three games. His addition instantly started paying dividends.

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