Dallas Cowboys: This Player Is Coming Into His Own

Dec 18, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) is sacked by Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle David Irving (95) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium. Dallas Cowboys won 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) is sacked by Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle David Irving (95) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium. Dallas Cowboys won 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

In the Dallas Cowboys last three games, the defense has been playing outstanding. But on the defensive line, there is a rising star in the making.

Finally, the Dallas Cowboys defense has improved in such a way that it’s complementing the team’s high powered offense. Over the last three games, this defense has recorded 10 sacks and forced 10 turnovers.

Elite defenses do this on the regular, like the team the Cowboys recently defeated, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But for the Cowboys, this is new territory, to say the least.

Different defensive players have stepped up and contributed to the Cowboys defense. From Cedric Thornton to Maliek Collins to Byron Jones, they’ve all made a key play when it mattered the most.

However, there is one player who is rising to the top and coming into his own. That player is defensive lineman David Irving. Mr. Irving had one of his best games in his short career against the Bucs.

If not for Irving’s outstanding play, I’m not sure the Cowboys walk away with their 12th win of the season, a convincing 26-20 victory over the Bucs. Irving recorded two sacks and a deflected pass. Plus, he had several hurries and five hits on quarterback Jameis Winston pass attempts.

Because of Irving’s constant pressure, Winston threw an interception to defensive back Jeff Heath, which helped the Cowboys offense regain the lead with a field goal. It’s amazing how well Irving played, basically dominated the fourth quarter by his lonesome.

More from Dallas Cowboys

It’s clear that Irving has potential to be a star in this league, but this is the second time this season he’s performed at a very high level.

Irving earned honors as the NFL Defensive Player of the Week after the Cowboys defeated the Green Bay Packers earlier in the season. In that game, Irving sacked Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and forced three fumbles.

Irving is a force at 6’7 and weighing in at 230 pounds with long arms. Very athletic, quick feet, good technique, it’s easy to explain why he wrecked havoc against the Bucs. Tampa wasn’t ready for the play of Irving, as he just blew off the edges like an All Pro edge rusher.

Although Irving hasn’t been consistent as a pass rusher, part of that can be attributed to him playing on the interior line and being part of a defensive rotation. At the defensive end rotation, DeMarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, and Jack Crawford holds it down on a regular basis.

Therefore, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had no reason to play Irving as a pass rusher, especially if he didn’t know how Irving would perform. Since Irving dominated at an elite level, the Cowboys have to put the lanky- armed pass rusher out there again.

That performance wasn’t a fluke. However, it never would have happened if not for injuries to Lawrence and Thornton.

After reviewing the film, Irving outplayed backup right tackle Gosder Cherilus and treated him like a drill dummy. Irving used a combination of the speed rush and his forearm to beat Cherilus and harass Winston.

To be clear, Cherilus held his own against left defensive end Tyrone Crawford for much of the game.

Further, Jack Crawford made an appearance at left defensive end, too.

To be blunt, neither one of the Crawfords played as well against Cherilus as Irving did. Irving played every snap in the fourth quarter and proved he had the stamina and talent to play at left defensive end.

Having Irving emerge as a legit pass rusher is tantamount for the Cowboys defense, another pass rusher Marinelli can rotate in. Getting sacks had been a weakness for the Dallas’ defense most of the season.

After witnessing Irving perform, and with the defense registering 10 sacks in the last three games, this defense has found a gem in the former Iowa State Hawkeye.

The playoffs are looming and the Cowboys are finally fixing one of its liabilities on defense. With a versatile player like Irving, who plays defensive tackle, too, this defense can confuse opposing offenses easily.

The good news about Irving is that if he continues to perform at an elite level, the Cowboys don’t have to over spend for an edge rusher in Free Agency or use a high draft pick on one. Dallas will have its own home-grown talent that it developed.

Another thing about Irving is he’s dependable, not suspension prone like his fellow defensive linemen, DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory.

Speaking of Lawrence and Gregory, can you imagine the impact of those two with Irving in the upcoming games? I’m anxiously awaiting to see what happens.

Next: How Randy Gregory Can be a Difference Maker in the Playoffs

But I’m more interested in seeing Irving develop into a star, a perennial Pro Bowler. The talent is there, along with the work ethic and determination.

Let’s enjoy the ride and watch Irving come into his own as he helps Dallas hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the sixth time in franchise history.