The Dallas Cowboys D-Line has the highest ceiling in the NFL

Everson Griffen (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Everson Griffen (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

No NFL defensive line is as potentially dominant as the Dallas Cowboys line in 2020

As far as pure potential, no defensive line has as high of a ceiling as the Dallas Cowboys do this year. If it wasn’t the case on Wednesday morning, it certainly is 24 hours later now that the Cowboys added the best free agent pass-rusher on the market, Everson Griffen.

The free agent from Minnesota joins an already talented unit that features Pro Bowlers DeMarcus Lawrence, Gerald McCoy, Aldon Smith, and Dontari Poe. He solidifies the starting lineup and allows Aldon Smith to slide into that Designated Pass Rusher role Stephen Jones was talking about.

To clarify, this is by no means decreeing the Dallas Cowboys have the best defensive line in the league. That honor goes to Pittsburgh, Philly, and Washington. What this is saying is the Cowboys have an extremely high variance D-line that could be anywhere from average to tops in the league. High end talent, proven pedigree, and overall depth all contribute to this.

The Dallas Cowboys Starting Unit

Lawrence at LDE, Poe at 1-tech, McCoy at 3-tech, and Griffin at RDE are all experienced defensive linemen capable of rushing the passer and stopping the run. Last season Dallas wasn’t so fortunate. Maliek Collins and Robert Quinn were abysmal against the run and a true liability when targeted.

Griffen and McCoy not only upgrade that run-stopping element, but arguably upgrade the pass-rush as well. No, Griffen probably won’t be able to reproduce Quinn’s double-digit sack season here in 2020, but chances are Quinn won’t either. Last year is what we call an outlier year. And that’s a big reason Dallas showed no interest in re-signing the 1-year rental.

Lawrence has 15-sack potential, Griffin has 10 sack potential, and McCoy still has 6-sack potential.  Poe isn’t much of a pass rusher so on passing downs he’ll be replaced with someone inside who can pressure the QB. That could be the explosive rookie Neville Gallimore or second year man Trysten Hill (if he can make the team).

But it doesn’t just stop at the starting lineup. The Dallas Cowboys are loaded with high-potential depth as well. Aldon Smith is a former unstoppable All-Pro who’s built like Goliath. Even with all his time away, he’s young and talented enough to be a double-digit sacker himself. Now that he doesn’t have to feel pressured to play RDE every snap, he can focus on pass-rushing situations.

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Tyrone Crawford may not offer much in “potential” but he offers stability and versatility that will enable others to reach for the stars. Dorance Armstrong is entering his third season and he just turned 23 this summer. Bradlee Anae is a rookie but he’s about as polished of a player we’ve seen enter the NFL at defensive end. As the most accomplished pass-rusher in college, he brings a ton of potential to Dallas as well.

And we haven’t even mentioned Randy Gregory. Gregory may be currently suspended but he’s still worth discussing. With the NFL no longer suspending for marijuana use, his pathway appears clear (although there’s a lot to unpack here). Gregory is the most talented pure edge rusher on the roster right now and if he can get back, he offers double-digit sack potential.

From Ron’Dell Carter to Ladarius Hamilton to Jalen Jelks, the Dallas Cowboys are loaded with high-potential young players. This is a great time to sell hope and the Dallas Cowboys D-line is about as hopeful as there is in this league.

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Will they all be able to reach their ceilings? No, but with so many high-potential guys on the D-line and so many stable veterans around them, the Dallas Cowboys only need a couple to reach their ceilings.

  • Published on 08/13/2020 at 12:22 PM
  • Last updated at 08/13/2020 at 12:22 PM