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Is 2017 DE DeMarcus Lawrence’s Last Year in Dallas?

Jess Haynie

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DeMarcus Lawrence

Players with expiring contracts are always a point of interest. For 2017 Cowboys in contract years, none is a bigger name than defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. What will Lawrence need to do to earn a new deal in Dallas?

Expectations have always been high for Lawrence. Dallas gave up a third-round pick in 2014 to move up and take him with the 34th overall pick. If that wasn’t enough, the Cowboys franchise sack leader had been released just a few months earlier and they had the same first name.

DeMarcus Lawrence

DE DeMarcus Lawrence (James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys)

Indeed, the transition from “D-Ware” to “D-Law” perhaps set the bar unfairly for Lawrence. Ware wasn’t just the Cowboys’ sack leader but is eighth all-time in NFL history and should be a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee. You can keep drafting guys in the top five of the draft and not find another DeMarcus Ware.

That said, Lawrence was still a borderline first-round talent and that comes with its own expectations. His first three years in Dallas have seen flashes of potential but ultimate disappointment, with injuries and a suspension playing a part.

At his best, DeMarcus has proven to be a game-changer. This was never more evident than in the Cowboys’ 2014 playoff game against the Detroit Lions. Lawrence notoriously scooped up a fumble forced by Anthony Spencer and then got stripped himself, giving the ball back to the Lions. In one of the great redemption moments of recent memory, he was able to sack Matthew Stafford to force another fumble and recovered it himself to seal the victory.

DeMarcus Lawrence

DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Other than that playoff performance, Lawrence’s rookie year wasn’t very inspiring. He missed nine games with injuries and didn’t record any sacks in the regular season. However, it’s important to remember that he’d missed most of training camp and all of the preseason, plus nine weeks of practice, with a foot injury.

In 2015, Lawrence began to look like consistent playmaker. He has seven sacks in Dallas’ final eight games and had you thinking he’d really arrived. Unfortunately, a four-game suspension to start the year and back issues throughout the season limited DeMarcus to just nine total games. He never looked right even when on the field and had just one sack in 2016.

Dallas used their 2017 first-round pick on DE Taco Charlton, who is ideally suited to play the same strong-side end position that Lawrence is also built for. Some have taken this as a sign that the Cowboys have no plans to re-sign DeMarcus after his contract expires this year.

Lawrence also be challenged by the returning Benson Mayowa and David Irving for playing time, plus Charles Tapper after his redshirt season. It also begs the question: how much will the Cowboys want to invest snaps in DeMarcus if he’s not part of their future plans?

DeMarcus Lawrence

DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Granted, we have no idea where Dallas is right now on re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence. There’s no question that he has the talent to be the best defense end on this roster. If Lawrence can put together a great year, he may force his way into a new contract even if he’s not in the team’s current plans.

Still, even if DeMarcus goes off in 2017, there will be cause for concern. Plenty of players have duped teams into giving them big money because they gave extra effort in a contract year. Dallas went through some of this a few years back with the aforementioned Anthony Spencer, who even admitted that he didn’t give the same effort in younger years as he did when his contract was running out.

The best scenario for the Cowboys is if the younger guys like Charlton, Irving, and Tapper can emerge this year. They can either let Lawrence walk or, at least, have the leverage if they decide they want to negotiate a new contract.

That scenario would also mean that DeMarcus had a good year, which only helps Dallas now in 2017. Whether it earns him a new deal with the Cowboys or some other team next season, Dallas is trying to win a championship right now and an improved pass rush is vital to that goal.

Will DeMarcus Lawrence contribute to the Cowboys’ success in 2017?  Will his contribution be enough to earn a new contract? Like everything else, we’ll have to wait and see.

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Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I’ll be sure to respond!

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2 Comments
  • I’m Okay w La’el @ RT

    I don’t think effort has ever been DLaw’s issue, so I think the concerns about ‘contract year’ effort are valid

  • Travis Diggs

    I hate to put Lawrence in that ” Claiborne” category but his injury history puts the bulls eye on him, making this a show me year. If he gets outplayed by Taco, Tapper, and Mayowa then What else is their to do I hope he shows up this year, he has the skill set , but that back injury has slowed down his career thus far

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Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

The Cowboys have just one more game to get through without their star running back Ezekiel Elliott, but Alfred Morris and Rod Smith deserve a ton of credit for the way they’ve been able to fill in out of the backfield for Zeke Elliott. Throughout the time Elliott has missed though, the Cowboys have lacked the explosive plays on offense that he can provide – until Rod Smith was given an opportunity last week at the Giants.

Smith complimented Morris exceptionally well, running with quickness and power to prove his case for more of a role on offense behind Elliott moving forward. It was the Ohio State product’s consecutive touchdowns of 81 yards through the air and 15 yards on the ground that sealed the game for the Cowboys in week 14.

Here is a closer look at Rod Smith’s performance from last week in this latest Sean’s Scout.

Smith3 – Streamable

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The Cowboys offensive line was dominant as always against a tough New York defensive front, and this first play is a great look at their execution in space and on the move. Rod Smith’s decisiveness when hitting the hole with speed and balance was the first thing I noticed on the game tape.

The best thing Smith does on this play comes at the second level, where running backs can truly make a difference in Dallas. As RG Zack Martin rides his man out of the play entirely, he gets in front of Smith who is seeing the play develop straight ahead. With his long strides, Smith is able to smoothly get through traffic and continue accelerating up field through arm tackles for a big gain.

Smith2 – Streamable

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These same traits are seen with Rod Smith as a pass catcher – something he does effortlessly to also help fill the void left by Elliott. Watch how quickly Smith commits to his angle up the field after catching this dump pass from Dak Prescott, attacking a defender that has the angle on him after the catch.

Rod subtly leans to the right just enough to make the defender hesitate long enough to allow his burst to evade him and gain extra yards falling forward.

Smith4 – Streamable

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Smith essentially does the same thing without the ball in his hands here, on his 81 yard catch and run for a touchdown. Setting up the safety out of the slot to be beat across his face, Smith separates from him at the stem and then does a great job getting depth on his route into the vacated middle of the field. With blockers to help him reach the end zone, Smith turns this busted coverage by the Giants into the game’s biggest play.

Smith1 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

This last play I chose to show is probably the least well-blocked attempt for Smith out of the ones in this Sean’s Scout, but there is still a lot to like about what Rod does here with the ball in his hands.

The Giants might be a two-win football team, but they still have marquee players up front, particularly DE Olivier Vernon. Smith does well here to keep his feet moving as he cuts this play to the backside. Vernon does well to limit the potential gain on this play by staying away from the block of Jason Witten, as Smith is taken down by Darian Thompson.

The numbers the Giants had to commit to stopping the run was still a huge reason why Prescott had a career day throwing the football, and Rod Smith’s readiness to step in at RB was a deciding factor in getting Dallas to 7-6.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Proving to be one of the Dallas Cowboys most valuable players, considering his cost (under contract through 2018), and ability to contribute on special teams and offense, Rod Smith is the perfect RB3 for this team.

Smith is not elite in any one area, and is not a prototypical RB from a physical standpoint, but his contributions as a runner, pass catcher, and blocker could remain critical to the Cowboys’ hopes of reaching the playoffs behind this offense – even when Ezekiel Elliott is back in the fold.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Rod Smith Vs Alfred Morris: Who’s The Cowboys Real RB1?

Brian Martin

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Rod Smith Vs Alfred Morris: Who's Cowboys' Real RB1?

The Dallas Cowboys are less than a week away from welcoming back their talented Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott, but until then they still have a game to play against the Oakland Raiders. That means we will have one more week of Alfred Morris and Rod Smith handling the workload, but which RB is sitting at the top of the Cowboys depth chart?

Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of decision that can end up winning or losing a game. Both Alfred Morris and Rod Smith have had their moments during Ezekiel Elliott’s absence, but neither one of them have really distanced themselves from the other. So, should Rod Smith or Alfred Morris receive the majority of the workload against the Raiders Sunday?

A Case for Rod Smith

RB Rod Smith and QB Dak PrescottRod Smith might just have had is coming out party last week against the New York Giants. Against their divisional rival, in what was a must win game for the Cowboys, Smith rushed for 47 yards on six carries and added another 113 yards through the air on five catches. He also found himself in the end zone twice, once on a rushing touchdown and the other on a receiving touchdown.

You may or may not agree, but I believe that “Lightning” Rod Smith was largely responsible for igniting the Cowboys offense and helping them pull away from the Giants last Sunday. He accounted for over 160 total yards and two touchdowns by himself and didn’t receive the majority of his playing time until later in the game.

Rod Smith certainly has traits that make him a more desirable RB over Alfred Morris. First off, he is a more complete back. He is better in pass protection and at catching the ball out of the backfield. But, he is also starting to show up in the running game and is averaging 4.5 yards a carry this season. His size (6’3″, 235) also makes him a better short yardage back, although I wish he would deliver more of a blow at the end of his runs.

A Case for Alfred Morris

RB Alfred MorrisAlthough there’s nothing particularly special that stands out about Alfred Morris, he has proven time and time again he is more than capable of carrying the workload. He has received the majority of the workload during Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and has performed pretty well. In fact, he is averaging 5 yards a carry this season, which is better than any other RB on the Cowboys roster, including Elliott.

Alfred Morris has looked pretty good this season and is playing with more of a spring in his step than I have seen from him in probably his entire career. Last Sunday against the Giants he received the the majority of the workload and finished the game with 19 carries for 62 yards. Not particularly spectacular, but the week prior he did rush for 127 yards on 27 carries in the victory over the Washington Redskins.

Like I mentioned earlier, Morris is a tried-and-true RB in the NFL and is at his best when he can continue to pound the rock and wear down opposing defenses. That is what he did against the Redskins, but he has his limitations as well. Despite his years in the league, he still struggles in pass protection and is limited in what he can do in the passing game. But, he does seem to have the trust of the Cowboys coaching staff.

✭✭✭✭✭

Personally, I would like to see more of Rod Smith this coming Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. I really like what I’ve seen from him in both the running game and in the passing game. I just think he is a more dangerous and versatile weapon then Alfred Morris. His presence on the field really opens up what the Cowboys can do offensively.

I don’t mean any disrespect to Alfred Morris at all. I just think that Rod Smith has proven he is a more dangerous offensive weapon of the two. I don’t know if the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff will agree or not, but I truly believe Rod Smith could once again be the X factor against the Oakland Raiders.

Of course, both Rod Smith and Alfred Morris will have to take the back seat once Ezekiel Elliott returns. So, this discussion really only has any credibility for this week in yet another must win situation against the Oakland Raiders.

Who do you like better… Rod Smith or Alfred Morris?

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La’el Collins’ Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Brian Martin

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La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise 1

The decision by the Dallas Cowboys to move La’el Collins from left guard to right tackle was met by some skepticism by quite a few members of Cowboys Nation during the off-season. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of those skeptical of the move, but I’m not afraid to admit he has exceeded my expectations.

In all honesty, I always believed that La’el Collins’ best position in the NFL is on the interior of the offense of line as a guard. I thought he could use his strength and athleticism to his advantage when working in a phone booth against slower and less athletic defensive tackles. That’s not to say I didn’t think he would make a good right tackle, I just thought he had Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

Strangely enough, Collins has probably put together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first season starting at the right tackle position for the Cowboys. He has become an upgrade over the previous starter Doug Free, and is really starting to earn high praise from the brass. Stephen Jones in particular has been impressed with Collins, especially considering how he has played after missing two full weeks of practice.

Mark Lane on Twitter

DallasCowboys COO Stephen Jones told @1053thefan La’el Collins has answered the bell after his contract extension.

I personally agree with everything Stephen Jones said about La’el Collins. I’ve really enjoyed watching his progression this season, but I have been really impressed how he played the last two weeks after missing so much practice.

You might not of known, but Collins has missed two full weeks of practice due to a herniated disc in his back. This is put his availability to play against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants in jeopardy, but somehow he has toughened up and played considerably well.

This unfortunately will be something he has to continue to battle through the rest of the season, but I’m not going to bet against him playing. He absolutely makes this offensive line better and I would hate to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell back on the field after the way they played as feel-ins.

La’el Collins has without a doubt earned my respect and I think it’s about time we all recognize the player he is turning into. I know the Dallas Cowboys appreciate all that he does and believe that his recent contract extension is money well spent.

What do you think about La’el Collins?

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