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More likely to happen for the Cowboys in 2020: DeMarcus Lawrence vs. the secondary

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We’re back with another edition of “more likely” for the Cowboys in 2020.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Everyone is excited about the Cowboys offense. With skill players that have previously produced, plus the addition of CeeDee Lamb, things are looking up on that side of the ball. It’s the defense (and special teams) that seem to raise the biggest concerns for the Cowboys faithful.

The Cowboys weren’t exactly great in 2019 in a couple of key categories for quality defensive play. They ranked 19th in sacks with 39 and they were tied for last in interceptions with seven. To make matters worse, 11.5 sacks walked out the door in the person of Robert Quinn.

So as we turn to 2020, there is a renewed emphasis on defense. The Cowboys brought in Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe and Aldon Smith to help along the defensive line, and they have re-tooled their secondary with the additions of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Trevon Diggs, among others.

Which brings us to our question: Which is more likely, DeMarcus Lawrence gets 11 sacks or the secondary is responsible for nine interceptions?

The DeMarcus Lawrence file

DeMarcus Lawrence has had an up-and-down career so far, specifically when it comes to sacks. Injuries and a suspension limited him early in his career where he sandwiched an eight-sack second year with a zero-sack rookie campaign and one sack in his third year.

It wasn’t until 2017 when Lawrence started to be a regular in every game as he put the injuries behind him. In that year, he racked up a career-high 14.5 sacks. He followed that up in 2018 with 10.5 sacks and earned a huge payday from the Cowboys. 2019 was down year for Tank when it comes to sacks as he only accumulated five for the season.

Lawrence has already vowed to increase his sack numbers for 2020.

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.”

The Cowboys are trying to add some help for Lawrence in 2020, especially after the departure of Robert Quinn. This could be a double-edged sword for Lawrence in terms of his sack total. Guys like Gerald McCoy, Aldon Smith, and possibly Randy Gregory could grab some of the Cowboys sacks, making it hard for Lawrence to hit 11. On the other hand, more talent means opposing offenses can’t concentrate so much on Tank, opening up the opportunity for more sacks.

Additionally, the new defensive scheme under Mike Nolan won’t be so predictable and that could also help Lawrence get into favorable matchups and grab some sacks. After such a big payday, Lawrence definitely has motivation to prove he is among the elite pass rushers, and while sacks aren’t everything, they are a big measuring stick for pass rushers.

The Secondary file

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before - the Cowboys are going to emphasize turnovers this season. That’s been a constant refrain from the team but has yet to really materialize in any sustainable way. Interceptions have been a big problem in that equation.

Over the last four years, the Cowboys secondary has accounted for nine, nine, six and five interceptions. We’ve taken the linebackers (and defensive line) out of this tally and are concentrating solely on the corners and safeties.

The Cowboys lost Byron Jones who had elite coverage skills, but only accounted for two interceptions in that four-year period. While it’s hard to judge how a rookie corner in Trevon Diggs may fare in his first NFL season, the Cowboys did bring in safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He has 16 career interceptions over six years, including a five-interception season in 2016. He’s only had one year where he failed to get more than one interception and that was in his rookie season.

The new Cowboys coaching staff, has vowed, like those before it, to put an emphasis on takeaways. There is one difference, though. This year Mike Nolan is the new coordinator and he’s known to run a multiple defense that will change up coverages and disguise things pre-snap. That is a big difference from the predictable Rod Marinelli-led defenses that didn’t seem to have much luck in the turnover department. That could cause some confusion for offenses and lead to more mistakes.

So there you have it. It’s your turn to comment - which is more likely in 2020? 11 sacks from DeMarcus Lawrence or nine interceptions from the Cowboys secondary?

Poll

More likely to happen in the Cowboys 20202 season?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    11 sacks for DeMarcus Lawrence
    (546 votes)
  • 39%
    Nine INTs for the secondary
    (356 votes)
902 votes total Vote Now