Dallas Cowboys: DeMarcus Lawrence Primed for Breakout in 2015


The Dallas Cowboys 2nd year pro, DeMarcus Lawrence, finds himself with great opportunity, as well as great expectations this season.

After the Dallas Cowboys traded up in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft, DeMarcus Lawrence has faced great expectations from this organization. Labeled as one of the only three true edge pressure players in the draft, the Dallas Cowboys gave up their 3rd round pick for a chance at the Boise State bookend.

Since then, the expectations have only risen for the young pass-rusher. After an injury kept him out of last season’s first half, DeMarcus Lawrence started the season slowly. Failing to collect a single sack during the regular season, Lawrence flipped a switch in the playoffs, collecting 2 sacks in two games. Now the pressure is on Lawrence to prove that was a sign of things to come, and not a fluke performance.

DeMarcus Lawrence’s regular season performance may not have lit up the highlight reels, but it laid a foundation for to become a complete player — A complete player with exceptional pass-rushing ability.

In grading the film last season, I noted that Lawrence was slowed by learning and the subsequent application. Too many times he was overthinking and playing cautiously, resulting in a slow first step and hesitant effort into the backfield.

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At first read that sounds like a negative evaluation, but it really just illustrates DeMarcus Lawrence’s desire to be more than just a pure pass-rusher. Many rookies (especially edge players) break into the league focused on making the big play, but Lawrence very clearly was intent on doing everything the right way. He watched the flat, looked for the edge run, and tried adding new pass-rush moves to his arsenal.

As mentioned earlier, this foundation started paying off in the playoffs when Lawrence collected 2 sacks and 2 hurries against some pretty strong competition. His effort wasn’t anywhere close to flawless, but he was playing much more instinctively than before, and was doing so without forgoing his assignments.

Now entering his 2nd season, expectations are through the roof. Cowboys Nation is already predicting him as a double-digit sack-man and future Pro Bowler. Obviously some people need to pump the breaks a little with their expectations, but it’s hard not believe he will breakout when considering his skill level.

ESPN Insider said this about D-Law, naming him one of 8 NFL breakout candidates:

"“Lawrence, the team’s 2014 second-round pick, played in just seven regular season games last year due to a foot injury. Athletic and explosive off the edge, Lawrence is a building block for the Dallas defense.”"

While many of us thought/assumed DeMarcus Lawrence would be manning the RDE spot again this season, Camp Cowboys has provided evidence to the contrary. Instead, it appears the premiere pass-rushing spot on the right, will be manned by Jeremy Mincey and Greg Hardy, moving DeMarcus Lawrence to the left defensive end spot.

The RDE position in Rod Marinelli’s Dallas Cowboys defense is clearly the premium pass-rushing spot. It has less run responsibilities, resulting in a faster first step, and more sack opportunities. But with the addition of Greg Hardy, Lawrence was moved to the left side. And that’s a good thing…

The left side of the line will pit Lawrence against the opposition’s right tackle. The prototypical NFL RT is usually stronger and slower than the LT. This is good news for a speed rusher like Lawrence. DeMarcus Lawrence will face his struggles against the run this season, but should be aided heavily by a steady rotation of teammates on running downs (Gardner, Russell).

As a pass-rusher, Lawrence will be able to make some major waves against opposing right tackles. Lawrence has his always-impressive high-lean edge rush (think DeMarcus Ware), but last season he was working on an inside move as well. Combining these, adding a stutter-step, and occasionally stunting inside, will give opposing offensive lines headaches all season long.

DeMarcus Lawrence is never going to be a bull-rusher, but his speed, quickness, and lean, he will always be a mismatch for opposing RTs. Lawrence showed us last season that playing the run and executing assignments is important to him as well, making him the complete player they were hoping him to be. Facing run-blocking on the left won’t be easy, but if Lawrence builds on his efforts last season, he can be a plus player against the run as well as a dominant force rushing the passer.

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