DeMarcus Lawrence is an outstanding defensive lineman and is every bit worth the five-year, $105 million contract extension he signed last offseason. After missing significant time in two of his first three seasons in the league, Lawrence has shown what he’s capable of as he’s now had three straight seasons where he’s played in every game. In 2017, he had an All-Pro year registering 14.5 sacks. He followed that up with a Pro Bowl season in 2018 with 10.5 sacks, but last year his sack totals dropped to just 5.0 on the season.
This has some questioning Lawrence’s ability. Even with a low sack total a year ago, he’s still one of the league’s top defensive linemen. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s tied with the fifth-highest pass rushing grade in the league since 2017.
And just in case you’re not sold on PFF grades, keep in him mind that he’s in some pretty good company there so they must be doing something right. All those guys are very wealthy players, including Joey Bosa ($27 million annually) and Myles Garrett ($25 million) who just signed new deals this offseason. Premiere edge rushers cost a pretty penny, that’s just the nature of the NFL.
While it doesn’t take inflated sack numbers to tell us how special Lawrence is, there are reasons to be optimistic about him having a huge rebound year statistically. And one of those reasons is the changing of the guard at right defensive end. With Robert Quinn, the Cowboys had a speed rusher, a guy who flashed around the edge with great bend. Quinn led the Cowboys with 11.5 sacks last year. It was the second-highest sack total of Quinn’s career, trailing only his 19.5 sack season he had back in 2013.
It was great to have such a quick edge rusher on the right side, and when it comes to speed, Quinn’s got a great chance to get there first. Everson Griffen, on the other hand, is more of a power rusher, and he’s got a knack for flushing the quarterback out of the pocket. He also loves to spin inside obstructing the quarterback’s ability to step up. And if a quarterback is forced to scurry away from him, there’s a good chance he could head right into the arms of DeMarcus Lawrence.
In Minnesota, these antics worked quite favorable for their left defensive end Danielle Hunter. Here are his sack totals these past two seasons playing opposite Griffen:
- 2018 = 14.5 sacks
- 2019 = 14.5 sacks
Hmm, what a convenient number that turned out to be. Coincidence? Sure, but make no mistake about it, Hunter benefits greatly by having Griffen bull-rush his way into the pocket of the quarterback. These two together are quite the tandem.
Here is an example of Griffen powering through one of the game’s best left tackle, forcing the quarterback to slide to his right, and right into the arms of Hunter. Teamwork makes the dream work.
The pairing of Lawrence and Griffen will help give the Cowboys a strong edge presence, but Griffen won’t be the only teammate helping disrupt the flow of traffic in the backfield. The pass rushing presence of Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe is also going to keep the area congested. For Lawrence, it should be business as usual, as he’s going to be awesome. And with the help of all this added pressure along the defensive line, don’t be surprised if he has a big year in sacks as everyone will rejoice that he’s back!