New-look DeMarcus Lawrence ready to reclaim role as Cowboys’ premier pass rusher - David Moore, Dallas Morning News
With Randy Gregory out of the picture, the Cowboys need DeMarcus Lawrence to reclaim his role as a dominant pass-rusher.
Fans fret over the departure of Randy Gregory in free agency. How does the Dallas defense compensate for his loss? Can free agent Dante Fowler and second-round pick Sam Williams combine to minimize his absence? Legitimate questions. But are those the right questions? Let’s start from a different perspective.
Does the return of a healthy Lawrence have a more profound impact on the defense than the presence of Gregory? Yes.
No excuses are being manufactured here. The Cowboys defense would have been better going forward with Lawrence and Gregory. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and his unit took a hit with Gregory’s defection to Denver. Offenses had to account for Gregory every time he stepped onto the field. But if you’re forced to make a choice on production, if you take consistency and physicality into account, Lawrence is the top choice.
Gregory had six sacks last season, a total that doesn’t fully account for his impact on games. He has 16.5 sacks for his career. Lawrence had 14.5 sacks in one season back in 2017.
The fascination over what Gregory potentially provides is enticing.
The second-year wideout will have a chance to make an impact in year two.
So, how exactly does Fehoko fit with the Cowboys? With Lamb set the take over as the No.1 receiver and Gallup on the mend from ACL surgery, Fehoko projects to be one of the biggest wide receivers at 6-3, 220 pounds. "Being the bigger, taller and I guess heavier receiver to be able to have that blend of speed I feel like adding that with learning from the route runner from [Noah Brown] or CeeDee, I feel like it's only just going to get better," Fehoko said. "I feel like that is something I bring to the table."
Learning has been a common theme for Fehoko as enters Year 2 in Dallas. And while Fehoko did not record a catch during his rookie campaign last season, he says that just being in town over the offseason helped him settle in after a whirlwind of a first season in the NFL.
"I ended up staying here and I was able to work with Dak a little bit through the offseason," Fehoko said. "It's been smooth for me just being able to deal with them and be here the whole offseason."
Taking a look at one move every team should make before the start of training camp.
Dallas Cowboys: Sign a Backup Left Tackle on 1-Year Deal. The Dallas Cowboys released right tackle La'el Collins as a cap casualty, although Terence Steele should fill that void. He served as a swing tackle and started in 27 games over the last two seasons.
With Steele likely to make a jump to a full-time starting role on the right side and rookie first-rounder Tyler Smith competing with Connor McGovern for the left guard spot following the departure of Connor Williams in free agency, the Cowboys need an experienced insurance policy for left tackle Tyron Smith. Rookie fifth-rounder Matt Waletzko could replace Steele in the swing tackle role, but that's a big gamble on a first-year player who could take the field for a significant number of snaps in place of an oft-injured starter.
Smith has missed 20 games over the past two seasons, and he's sat out at least three contests for six consecutive years. Though Tyler Smith (the rookie first-rounder) could eventually replace Tyron Smith (the eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro) at left tackle, he may win the battle at left guard this offseason. If that's the case, Dallas needs a reliable veteran tackle for at least a year.
Which Cowboy do you think will have the hardest time securing a roster spot?
DT Trysten Hill. The 2019 draft class is well represented in this article. Unlike their classmate Tony Pollard, guys like Hill, McGovern, and Donovan Wilson have yet to prove they deserve a fourth season with the Cowboys. And in the case of Trysten, he may not have a spot anywhere in the NFL this year. While only a 2nd-round pick in 2019 Hill has faced 1st-round scrutiny since his arrival to Dallas. He was the team’s first selection in that draft after they traded their 1st-rounder to the Raiders for WR Amari Cooper the year before.
But while expectations for Hill may have been a little too high, the performance of recent 3rd-round defensive tackles Neville Gallimore and Osa Odighizuwa have now made Trysten an afterthought at the position. In fact, Hill making the roster in 2022 would be a huge surprise based on current projections.
Most soured on Hill after a disappointing rookie season in which he fell out of favor with the coaches for poor work ethic. The staff turnover in 2020 seemed to be good for Trysten and had him making noise during camp and early in the season, but a torn ACL in Week 5 ended his comeback campaign quickly. Trysten did not return until the middle of last season and was buried on the depth chart behind Gallimore, Odighizuwa, and Carlos Watkins.
There are certainly still some positions of weakness the Cowboys could address before the start of the season.
3. Wide Receiver. CeeDee Lamb is exempt from this discussion, as he is one of the best young receivers in the game. Instead, the ire from this analysis is directed at Dallas’ collection of depth speedsters. A regression could be coming with Amari Cooper in Cleveland and Cedrick Wilson in Miami.
When healthy, Michael Gallup is a fantastic receiver, but his injury concerns are noteworthy. James Washington is the most milquetoast, average receiver the league has ever created. The Abeline-born Oklahoma State alum has just one season in which he recorded more than 400 yards receiving. That’s Dak’s No. 3 target?
The Dallas Cowboys don’t have excellent WR depth. Noah Brown is still hanging around, but his value lies on special teams rather than on offense. 2021 fifth-rounder Simi Fehoko likely isn’t going to wiggle his way into a role with a ton of snaps in Year 2. Third-rounder Jalen Tolbert is exceptionally talented, but he could struggle to make the jump from the Sun Belt to the NFL.
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