The Dallas Cowboys failed to re-sign Randy Gregory this offseason. In one of the weirder u-turns we’ve seen in a while, the team went from closing the deal with Gregory to letting him escape to Denver. Then, during April’s draft, one of the nation's top collegiate edge rushers, Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson, was available at pick 24, but the Cowboys opted to go a different direction by selecting offensive lineman Tyler Smith. The team had two opportunities to secure a promising edge talent, but let them slip through their fingers.
This left Cowboys fans a little concerned about how they are going to get to the quarterback, but we’re here to tell you it’s not as bad as it seems. That’s because the team already has two extremely talented edge rushers on the roster - DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons.
One of the most over-scrutinized players on the roster, Lawrence ‘s value is often questioned because the Cowboys paid a high price for him that doesn’t line up to his sack numbers. He had an All-Pro season back in 2017 when he accumulated 14.5 sacks, but he hasn’t even reached half that in each of the last three seasons. This offseason Lawrence agreed to a pay cut that saw his cost go from $21 million annually to just $13.3 million. He also cut off his dreads and looks a lot leaner this year.
In what can only be described as an effort to increase his sack numbers, DeMarcus Lawrence has decided to eliminate some head weight. pic.twitter.com/1bdiuMjGue— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) April 25, 2022
Lawrence is a remarkable locker room presence. Once believed to have some maturity issues at Boise State, it didn’t take long for him to become one of the Cowboys more vocal leaders. He is serious in his approach, works incredibly hard at his craft, and plays with a tenacity that is admired by those around him. Tank’s high character and work ethic help make him one of the team’s more consistent producers over the last several years.
While that doesn’t translate into high sack numbers, Lawrence’s presence is still felt. He uses his long arms to keep blockers from getting into his body and swipes those powerful hands to disengage. He’s not overly bendy, but he constantly makes himself skinny and uses his power to go around or through his opponents. The physical skills are there, but it’s his intense vision that has him sniffing out plays instantly as he’s often found darting inside quickly before a blocker has a chance to react. That is why he’s so effective in the run game. He’s constantly in the backfield whether he’s making tackles or pressuring the quarterback.
Lawrence is one of those every-down players whose contributions don’t always fill up the stat sheet. His length and closing ability allows him to swipe at the ball (16 career forced fumbles), and even when he forces the action away from him, his relentless motor has him chasing down players from behind. He’s an incredible asset to have on the defensive line.
The Cowboys have drafted several first-round players in the last decade that went on to become an All-Pro, some of which occurred during their rookie season. Parsons is one of them, but never has a Cowboys rookie been so fierce out of the gate than the former Penn State linebacker. Coming out of college, Parsons was hyped as a special player because of his unique combination of size and speed. He was touted as one of those unicorns who could change the game because of all the different things he could do.
So far, the scouting report has been spot on and fans have immediately been exposed to all his upside traits. Parsons is a super-fast ball pursuer that has demonstrated incredible range as a run stopper. His suddenness allows him to change direction on a whim and quickly catch up and chase players down. His superb quickness combined with powerful hands constantly has blockers out of position as Parsons finds his way into the backfield. His 13-sack rookie season even had some people mentioning his name as a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate. That is quite an impressive start.
The Cowboys have added some new edge rushers this offseason. They signed former third-overall pick Dante Fowler in free agency who is just a few years removed from a 11.5 sack season. They also have a promising rookie in Sam Williams who has that same fiery mentality and powerful upfield attacking ability to eventually wreak havoc in the backfield.
Combine those guys with Dorance Armstrong, who is coming off his best season as a pro, second-year player Chauncey Golston, and veteran rotational/special teams player Tarell Basham, and suddenly you have a pretty solid defensive end group.
This arrangement of pass rushers should make fans feel pretty good, but even more satisfying is what we could end up witnessing from the team’s two biggest defensive playmakers. A healthier season from Lawrence coupled with even more pass-rushing reps from Parsons could suddenly propel this duo into the conversation as one of the top defense end tandems in the NFL.