It wasn’t too long ago that DeMarcus Lawwrence got paid. Last offseason, the Cowboys star defensive end signed a huge contract that could keep him in Dallas through the 2023 season. Lawrence was coming off back-to-back seasons with double-digit sacks and it seemed destined that would be the case for a number of years going forward. Then the 2019 season happened.
It wasn’t like Lawrence played poorly, he didn’t. But when you are paid that kind of money at the position he plays, sacks are expected to follow. Lawrence ended the year with only five. Not only were his sacks down, but other metrics were off from his spectacular 2017/2018 seasons. Tackles, assists, TFLs and QB hits were all down.
Lawrence says that the sacks will be back, but he also notes that he helped other players stats go up, like Robert Quinn, as teams were focused on stopping him.
After tallying only five sacks last season, what happened to you last year?
Lawrence: “Nothing happened to me last year. I know I ended the season with five sacks, but I also helped other players boost their numbers back up to double digits. It’s not a one-man game and I know how to play the game the right way. I know how to make plays when plays come my way. And I also know how to make sure my teammates are making their plays. You don’t have to worry about nothing. Trust me, the sack number will be back up.”
It’s true that his presence helps those around him, and that defense is a team game. Still, when a team pays out a contract of over $100 million to a defensive end, they are expecting sacks. We’ve all heard that sacks are not the be-all, end-all of defensive line play, and they aren’t, but they sure do matter. They are drive-killers, and getting opponents off the field is the name of the game for defenses.
Lawrence may benefit from the arrival of Mike Nolan and a new defensive philosophy. We expect to see much more variety in the Cowboys defensive attack in 2020, and forcing offenses to make choices may just free up Lawrence for some more one-on-ones where he can dominate.
There’s no reason to worry about the play of Lawrence, but the sacks do need to come back. Besides a turnover, they are the most effective weapon in a defense’s arsenal.