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Cowboys pass rush can carry team early in season with growing pains elsewhere on defense

The Cowboys are waiting to unleash Micah Parsons and an even deeper group of pass rushers than they’ve shown this preseason.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

It was a mostly forgettable preseason week two game for the Dallas Cowboys in Seattle, losing 22-14 to the Seahawks in an exhibition marked by significant injuries. While most starters have stayed on ice so far in the preseason, other players with potential to be in the rotation were injured, like DeMarvion Overshown and John Stephens Jr. who were both lost to torn ACL injuries.

The Cowboys will get back to work from their home in Frisco at The Star before hosting the Raiders for one more tune up. The plan for this game likely didn’t change a ton because of what happened at the Seahawks, but it’s fair to say the team Dallas fields against Las Vegas will hardly resemble the one that opens the regular season against the Giants 15 days later.

One noticeable difference should be in pass rush, where the Cowboys have only seen flashes all through this deep position group. With Sam Williams leading the way, players like Isaiah Land have made the most of their playing time - doing so without one of the most dominant players in the game Micah Parsons drawing any attention from blockers. The Cowboys have also been playing without Dorance Armstrong, preparing for a 2023 season where the defensive line should be their best overall position group again. Don’t forget about DeMarcus Lawrence either, the aged veteran who can still do damage.

Sticking with the theme of this offseason of improving in areas the team was once hesitant about, like making trades for starting WR Brandin Cooks and CB Stephon Gilmore, the Cowboys are in good position to embrace letting their defensive front carry them through any early-season bumps. Whether it’s time needed for Mike McCarthy’s offense to get in sync, a secondary with new faces, or the ongoing search for depth on the offensive line, the Cowboys not being content with running out the same pass rush group gives them a unit they can expect to carry significant weight in deciding games.

This was clear early against the Seahawks, with Sam Williams recording a sack and multiple other pressures. The year two jump for Williams to be another versatile defender in Dan Quinn’s defense is real, doing his best work so far this preseason from right end. This is a spot the Cowboys can also deploy Parsons and Armstrong, with all three being matchup players that won’t exclusively rush against left tackles.

NFL: Preseason-Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

At every other spot the Cowboys have depth, like receiver with the emergence of Jalen Tolbert making another big play on Saturday, or cornerback as Daron Bland and the injured Jourdan Lewis work into more snaps, it will take some time for lineups to gel and the best version of these position groups to be seen. Under a coordinator like Quinn that specializes in pass rush though, this deeply talented defensive front is ready to play their best football right out of the gate, doing so with homegrown talent that’s been developed.

Isaiah Land had the Cowboys other sack against Seattle. He is looking to force his way onto the roster after being a UDFA that caught Quinn’s eye in the draft process last year. The Cowboys have been regarded as a great drafting team for some time now, and while it’s free agent acquisitions and trade pieces expected to put them over the top this season, having a dominant and experienced defensive line is a comforting place to take as an advantage into every game.

Add in the expected quarterback advantage Dak Prescott gives the Cowboys in most matchups, and even the biggest skeptic of this being Dallas’ year can understand while they’ll be favorites to win early and often come September.

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