With free agency and the NFL Draft in the rear view mirror, the Dallas Cowboys now look forward to OTAs and training camp leading up to the start of the 2018 season. With that in mind I will be breaking down the roster by position. Today we will take a look at the Defensive Line.
When talking about the Cowboys defensive line there is only one place to start. That’s with their best pass rusher, defensive end Demarcus Lawerence. Lawerence had the best season of his career in 2017 with 14.5 sacks. The career season earned him the franchise tag for the upcoming season. Playing under the franchise tag Demarcus will earn just over 17 million in 2018. Dallas will get a motivated Lawrence who will be looking to cash in on a long term deal after the season. If Dallas is going to have a great pass rush it starts with Demarcus Lawrence having another double digit sack season.
At the other starting defensive end position, it will likely be Tyrone Crawford. Crawford has been solid, but you have to believe the cowboys will be looking for more from him in 2018. Last season Crawford recorded 4 sacks and 27 tackles. If Crawford can take a step forward, he and Lawrence could become one of the most feared pass rushing duos in the league.
The Cowboys second most productive pass rusher in 2018 was from their defensive tackle position. That player was David Irving. Irving had seven sacks, despite missing four games with a suspension. Irving’s talent has never been the question. The question has been focus and can he stay out of trouble off the field. This offseason Irving has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons. There was an allegation from his ex girlfriend regarding domestic violence, but she later admitted that it was a false allegation. Irving also couldn’t participate during OTA’s because he was out of shape. Dallas hopes they can get a focused and motivated David Irving for 2018 which would be a huge boost to their pass rush.
The other starting defensive tackle is currently injured. Maliek Collins is out indefinitely with a broken foot. It’s the same foot that Collins broke before the 2016 season. However Collins knows what it takes to recover from injuries. In 2016 he was still active for 14 of the 16 games. In two seasons he has played in 30 of the 32 games. Cowboys are hopeful that Collins will be ready to roll when the season begins, and they also hope that he can return to his 2016 production. That season Collins had 5 sacks from the defensive tackle position.
While the starters are important, the backups play a major role in Rod Marinelli’s defense as well. Marinelli relies on a rotation in order to keep his pass rushers fresh. The most intriguing name is one that hasn’t been on the field in awhile. Randy Gregory has spent most of the past two seasons suspended for numerous failed drug test. People close to Gregory believe he is a changed man. Gregory has filed the proper paperwork to the NFL requesting reinstatement into the league. While you can never predict how commissioner Roger Goodell is going to rule, there are people in the know that believe there is a very real possibility that Gregory will be reinstated for the 2018 season. If Gregory is reinstated and can get into playing shape quickly he can be a major contributor this season.
Some other names to watch for the cowboys in 2018 are Kony Elay, Taco Charlton, Jihad Ward, and Charles Tapper. If Dallas is going to have a great defense in 2018 they will need a great pass rush. The only way they will have a great pass rush is if they get production from a lot of different guys.
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