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Cowboys DE Dorance Armstrong isn’t playing more, just better

The Cowboys are getting a lot of production from their re-signed free agent.

Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

While Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs get most of the attention on the Cowboys’ defense, we’ve had several heroes during the current four-game winning streak. One of the biggest has been defensive end Dorance Armstrong who is breaking out before our eyes as an impact player both on defense and special teams.

With a strip sack and a blocked punt in Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Rams, Armstrong was a catalyst for Dallas’ most impressive victory yet of 2022. He’s second on the team with four total sacks and now has both a blocked punt and field goal after just five games.

Armstrong was clearly a Plan B for the Cowboys this past offseason. He was only re-signed after Dallas failed to close the deal with Randy Gregory. For less than half the price of what Gregory would’ve cost, Armstrong rejoined the team a few days after Gregory signed with the Denver Broncos.

Now Armstrong is a key cog on arguably the best defense in the NFL. He’s already one sack away from tying his career high and could even hit double digits by the end of the year.

One might assume that Armstrong’s just benefiting from additional playing time in Gregory’s absence. But surprisingly, Armstrong has actually been on the field a little less in 2022 than a year ago. Last season, Armstrong appeared on a career-high 56% of Dallas’ total defensive snaps. So far he’s only at 52% over the first five games.

Like the rest of the Cowboys' defense, Armstrong is certainly benefiting from Micah Parsons’ ever-increasing notoriety and improved play at various points. But after four years of flashing potential, Armstrong also seems to have taken his game to another level. He, Parsons, and DeMarcus Lawrence are now a three-headed monster as pass rushers.

While not wanting to dance on Randy Gregory’s grave, you can’t help but look over in Denver and make the natural comparison. While Armstrong is thriving in Gregory’s old role in Dallas, Gregory has two sacks in four games for the Broncos and is now on injured reserve with a knee issue.

Again, the Cowboys' front office was ready to pay Gregory $14 million per year with the contract they’d agreed to. Had Gregory not backed out due to some issues he had with the fine print, he’d be in Dallas now and Armstrong would’ve signed somewhere else. So we’re not patting the Jones family on the back for stumbling into this outcome.

To be fair, who knows if Gregory wouldn’t be having similar results had he stayed in Dallas? Playing for Dan Quinn seems to bring out the best in everyone right now, and Gregory would have enjoyed the Parsons effect right along with the rest.

Even if they got here by dumb luck, the Cowboys have to be ecstatic with Armstrong’s performance. He’s averaging just $6 million this year and next but is making plays at a premier rate.

From an offseason afterthought to a defensive standout, Dorance Armstrong is a key reason for the Cowboys’ current success. Armstrong won’t get the same glory as his all-world teammate or even a few others, but you’ll be seeing plenty of him in the 2022 highlight reel.

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