The second year edge was highly touted amongst those working at the Star. As a 6’4″, 254 pound edge rusher, he was productive at Kansas.
142 Tackles, 34.5 Tackles for Loss, 15.5 Sacks, 8 Forced Fumbles
The total doesn’t quite do justice because his 2016 campaign was sensational.
56 Tackles, 20.0 Tackles for Loss, 10.0 Sacks, 3 Forced Fumbles
The drop off in production from his sophomore to junior season is concerning, but he did obtain an injury versus Oklahoma State. With those concerns, he skipped his senior season and was a 4th round draft choice by the Cowboys.
Buried behind a ton of talent, it was a long shot for Armstrong to get much playing time. However, during training camp and offseason activities, his name was more popular amongst the coaching staff than any of the other rookies. (This is big news since the Cowboys were in love with Leighton Vander Esch)
This season, Armstrong will be looking to find his role in an even more crowded depth chart. However, there might be light at the end of the tunnel.
Similarly to Taco, Dorance has very long arms. (In fact, Armstrong’s arms are 1/2″ longer) This is great for pass rushers who use their arms to gain leverage on an offensive tackle, something Dorance does plenty.
Armstrong is also a fairly creative pass rusher. He’s light enough to beat offensive tackles outside, he can use his arms to win with a bull rush, and he uses his eyes really well to know where the ball is at all times. His motor is working all the time.
For a lighter edge, he has a lot of strength. DeMarcus Lawrence and Armstrong are both around the same height and weight, and both display impressive amounts of upper body strength. Lawrence possesses more burst and explosion, but at the point of attack they showcase enough strength to win leverage against their opponent.
Because Armstrong is lighter, he has the benefit of good bend. For someone who’s upper body is built as such, he can get really low to the ground and find a way to the ball carrier in the backfield.
The first obvious counterpoint is Armstrong is the least experienced of the three edges. In 15 games he produced:
13 Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss, .5 Sacks
The resume isn’t great especially considering Taco played less minutes this season and Charlton produced more. However, expecting an edge rusher to be an immediate contributor on defense is a very tall order especially when that edge rusher was a 4th round pick.
Outside of production, Armstrong’s athleticism isn’t earth shattering. His straight line speed is comparable to Taco’s and his first step burst is average. Where Armstrong wins is with his arms and instincts. This is the standard, but jumping off the snap to beat the tackle to the outside provides an immediate advantage for the defender no matter the player.
With Hyder and Taco, they have positional versatility. (Even if Taco has to gain weight, it’s still a possibility) Unfortunately, Armstrong does not fit that category. His arms are long, but weighing 254 pounds is not going to help you when dealing with maulers on the interior offensive line. Even though he possesses excellent upper body strength, his lower body strength will be the most important asset when moving people against their will.
Armstrong is the youngest and most inexperienced of the three, but his relentless motor, flexibility, and strength make him an asset for the Dallas Cowboys who love to have their edge rushers do all types of moves. Armstrong is limited in positional flexibility and might reach his ceiling within a few years.
So now that we have concluded all three players, who are we “Starting, Benching, and Cutting”?