In this Cowboys Chat, we discuss the defensive line, from personnel, to expectations, to potential sleepers.
The Dallas Cowboys have big expectations for the upcoming season. One thing standing in their way to success is the defensive line. Considered by many as the weak link to the team, did the defensive line improve enough to compete in the postseason? We answer that and more in this Cowboys Chat.
The Cowboys 2016 defensive line played better many are giving them credit for. How much do they really need to improve in 2017?
I think it’s a common misconception that the defensive line played well in 2016. For as fun as it was to cheer on Rod Marinelli’s orphans, they just weren’t a playoff caliber unit. For a team with Super Bowl aspirations like the Cowboys, that’s a problem.
Dallas finished ahead of the NFL average with 36 sacks last season but they accumulated those sacks with considerably more opportunities than your average team.
As discussed last week, the Cowboys finished 3rd from last in the NFL in applying pressure on passing plays. That’s nothing short of terrible. So they need to vastly improve the pass rush is not overstated.
Who will lead the Cowboys in sacks in 2017?
If you asked me last week I would have said David Irving. He lead the team in pressure last year and was looking to take on an increased role in 2017. Now that he’s suspended the first 4-games of the season, that’s doubtful. It’s hard to hit the ground running after a suspension .
I don’t think Benson Mayowa will either. I think his sack production last year was a fluke. I suppose I think at this point my money is on Demarcus Lawrence. Suspension and injuries robbed him of a good 2016 season, and with this year being a contract year, I think he’ll be extraordinarily in-shape and motivated.
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Do you see any surprises or sleepers on this team heading into training camp?
There always are. One player is already suspended so that will provide an opportunity to someone who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity. And every year someone is lost for a significant portion due to injury so that will no-doubt offer an opportunity to someone else.
I’m really curious to see Charles Tapper play. He lost a ton of weight and may have some explosion on the edge. I think he’s a lock to make the team so if I’m hunting for surprise sleepers, I’m looking at defensive end, Lenny Jones.
Jones has a pretty fun backstory where he went from being locked up in a juvenile detention center, to a member of a rap group, to a problematic player with the Nevada Wolf Pack, to a cornerstone player and leader for the Wolf Pack. He’s talented and a fighter and someone who seems to have things finally figured out.
He’s my long-shot pet cat heading into training camp and has the potential to be a RDE pass-rushing specialist.
Did the Cowboys do enough to improve the pass rush?
I don’t think so. I think they will improve over last year but not enough to be a reliable force against playoff teams. The Cowboys will need to lean on the offense and cannot afford to fall behind like they did against Green Bay last season.