Pro Football Focus (PFF) recently released a list ranking the top 32 edge defenders entering the 2021 season. According to PFF, these rankings are based off of their play-by-play grading and advanced metrics such as pressure totals and run-stop percentages.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence ended up ranked pretty highly. In fact, he ended up landing in the Top 10.
Pass rush is always going to draw headlines for edge defenders. Lawrence has been one of the league’s best in that department, putting up a top-10 pass-rush win rate at the position since 2017. However, he has also been an elite run defender in recent years. Lawrence’s 90.1 run-defense grade over the last four seasons makes him one of just seven players at the position to clear the 90.0 mark since 2017.
Seeing DeMarcus Lawrence ranked as a Top 10 edge defender entering the 2021 season and ending up at seventh overall will sure to be a shock to some around Cowboys Nation. For those who judge players based purely on their sacks, No. 90 sadly doesn’t measure up as a top player his position, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Lawrence hasn’t registered a double-digit QB sack season since 2018 (10.5) and is coming off of just a 6.5 sack year in 2020, but the impact he has in the game on any given play goes far beyond what the stat sheet shows. In fact, an argument could be made he’s the most complete edge defender in the entire league.
He is the type of player who demands extra attention on every single play due to the fact he’s equally good as a pass rusher or a run defender. One thing keeping his name out of the conversation with the likes of the Khalil Mack’s and T.J. Watt’s of the league is Dallas’ inability to to surround him with more talent on defense.
For the past several years the Cowboys have tried to find the right counterpart to play opposite Lawrence at right defensive end. First they tried to fill the void with a first-round draft pick, selecting Taco Charlton to be the long-term solution, and sadly that failed miserably. Then they tried one-year rentals in Robert Quinn and Aldon Smith.
Heading into the 2021 season the Dallas Cowboys are now banking on Randy Gregory to take some of the pressure off of Lawrence. It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out as the season progresses, but the one thing we know for sure is D-Law should continue to perform as one of the top edge defenders in the league regardless.