Dallas Cowboys Breakout: Why this year is different for Dorance Armstrong

(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Training camp for the Dallas Cowboys this summer has had its share of ups and downs. Some players have risen to the occasion while others have wilted under the pressure. One player who has unquestionably done the former is third-year defensive end, Dorance Armstrong.

Armstrong, a fourth round pick in the 2018 draft, has arguably been the biggest riser in training camp this summer. The Kansas edge player has been virtually unblockable this preseason, causing headaches for teammates and opponents alike.

Normally this kind of development would send shockwaves through Cowboys Nation, but fans have been fairly reserved. You see, Cowboys fans have been here before. Last year Dorance Armstrong  also had a strong showing in training camp (if we can call 2020 training camp), but it didn’t translate to the regular season.

Armstrong’s pedestrian performance in 2020 is tempering the expectations for many this season. No matter how unstoppable he looks in preseason, fans seem to be slotting themselves in “I’ll believe it when I see it” territory. But there’s reason to believe this year is different and the Dallas Cowboys have reason to believe his strong summer is a sign of things to come and not another tease.

There’s reason to believe this time Dorance Armstrong really is going to breakout for the Dallas Cowboys.

With DeMarcus Lawrence recovering from offseason surgery, Dorance Armstrong has recovered an abnormal amount of first team snaps throughout training camp. Going against the 1s has been instrumental in his development and overall assessment.

Dallas drafted Armstrong at age 20. So it’s understandable he didn’t get his first full sack until age 22. Neither D-Law nor D-Ware got their first sack until age 23.

Armstrong has routinely won snaps in Oxnard, Frisco, and preseason games. He’s played well against rotational players and starters alike and has done so a variety of ways, displaying good handwork, strength, and counter moves on any given snap.

When camp opened, there was concern Armstrong could be pushed out by more accomplished players.

But that idea was quickly put to bed when Armstrong started flashing against Dallas’ starting right tackle, La’el Collins, in training camp.

In addition to solid defensive end play, Armstrong also holds a key role on special teams. This all but guarantees his spot on the roster and regular role in the DE rotation this season.

Some may question whether or not this is the real deal. As mentioned earlier, we’ve seen this before: Armstrong has not been able to carry his preseason success over into the regular season. But this year it’s different.

Legitimacy of reps

For starters, Armstrong is going against…starters. In the past he’s won reps against fringe roster guys so it makes sense he struggled to repeat that success against starters once the regular season started. This year we’ve seen him do it against Dallas starters, Dallas backups, opposing starters, and opposing backups. And in all situations he’s looked strong.


People tend to forget how young Dorance Armstrong really is. He may have three years of experience under his belt, but the kid entered the NFL at age 20. He just turned 24 this summer, Cowboys fans. So it’s understandable Dorance didn’t get his first full sack until age 22. For comparison, DeMarcus Lawrence got his first sack at age 23. DeMarcus Ware got his first sack at age 23 as well. Let’s keep in mind he’s been developing in the NFL at an age most players are developing in college. Speaking of development…


The only pass-rushers who hit the NFL running that young are explosive edge player types. Armstrong isn’t that explosive quick-twitch edge player bending the corner. He’s not a generational athlete like Ware was. Armstrong is a well-rounded, more traditional type of edge player. That takes time to develop. So much of what we’re seeing is just organic improvement.

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Dorance Armstrong has yet to hit his physical prime so it’s understandable he’s still improving as a player. Last year’s performance was a setback, for sure. But the entire defensive unit looked horrible under Mike Nolan. That’s not an excuse – it’s an explanation.

Factor all those things in and combine it with his contract situation (Dorance is a free agent after this season) and you have an extra motivated man. Assuming DeMarcus Lawrence is 100 percent by Week 1, and Randy Gregory explodes for that breakout season we’re all expecting, this could quite the fearsome trio of defensive ends Dallas has in 2021.

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  • Published on 08/23/2021 at 16:01 PM
  • Last updated at 08/23/2021 at 15:35 PM