There has been a lot of back for forth regarding defensive end Dorance Armstrong after he was drafted by the Cowboys. Coming out of Kansas, Armstrong was a very productive defensive end tallying 142 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss, and 15.5 sacks; he was always around the quarterback or in the backfield making plays. During his time with the Cowboys, though, he’s never really been able to showcase his talents because of the talent already on the depth chart, or the team looking for outside help in free agency. Every training camp news would come out that Armstrong’s having a very good camp, getting the best of offensive tackles and harassing quarterbacks. Then when the season kicks off he’s used sparingly, playing only 273 snaps (27% of defensive snaps) in 2018, 262 snaps (24% of defensive snaps) in 2019, and 369 snaps (33% of defensive snaps) in 2020. and the only reason for the increase in snaps in 2020 was due to the suspension of Randy Gregory.
For context, DeMarcus Lawrence played on 668 defensive snaps, that's 60% of the defensive snaps, Randy Gregory, who was suspended the first six games of the season, would end up on the field for 275 snaps (25%) in 2020. They also had Aldon Smith who recently left in free agency and their go-to do-it-all defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford who has retired. Last season Crawford, even with his drop in production, was on the field for 446 snaps (40% of defensive snaps), and Smith was on the field for 809 snaps (73% of defensive snaps).
In the case of Crawford and Smith, their production tailed off midseason, and during their slumps Armstrong wasn’t given the opportunity to take snaps from them unless they were getting a breather or injured. Once Gregory stepped on the field, the snaps immediately went to him, and rightfully so seeing as he’s proven to be the better player.
But even when used sparingly, Armstrong was able to make plays at times with 33 tackles, six quarterback pressures, one quarterback knockdown, and five hurries last season. The Cowboys should consider giving Armstrong a chance to show what he can do when given more time on the field, Since he is in a contract year, it would be in the Cowboys best interest to at least give him a chance to get on the field a bit more instead of spending money on pass rushers like Tarell Basham who’s on his third team in four years, and still hasn’t become the effective pass rusher many thought he would become.
Now we can all agree that DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are penciled in at the starting end positions, but Armstrong at least deserves the chance to display his talents on the field with more consistency because right now, behind those two starters, the Cowboys are really thin at the position. Basham hasn’t done much in his career with more playing time, and Ladarius Hamilton, Ron’Dell Carter, and Bradlee Anae barely saw the field with 32 defensive snaps between the three of them.
The Cowboys need a third pass rusher and right now they should want Armstrong to be that guy, they just need to get him on the field more so he can do it. And if that happens then the Cowboys can either decide to let Armstrong leave in free agency and possibly get a compensatory draft pick, or sign him to a deal and make sure they have depth at defensive end in the future.