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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence’s League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Sean Martin

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

The Dallas Cowboys defensive line, expecting to add Defensive Tackle David Irving back into the rotation this week, faces a favorable match up against a Houston Texans offense that's allowed 17 sacks this season. Second only to Buffalo, the Cowboys will be relying on their defense once again on Sunday night, led by DeMarcus Lawrence at left defensive end.

Lawrence's 5.5 sacks through four games leads the NFL, as the Cowboys franchise-tagged pass rusher has picked up where he left off from a 14.5 sack performance in 2017.

Ahead of a pivotal game for the 2-2 Cowboys in prime time against 1-3 Houston, now felt like a great time to break down Lawrence's effectiveness getting to the quarterback this season.

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Lawrence has been masterful in his own technique as always, but so too has been the execution from veteran Tyrone Crawford alongside him. Lining up at the 3T-DT position despite preparing to play DE this season, Crawford has played with great quickness and burst to make the Cowboys twist game a staple up front.

Getting to Cam Newton here in the Cowboys season opener, watch as Crawford knocks the right guard off-balance almost instantly before executing this T/E stunt to the outside. While the right tackle does a good job dealing first with Lawrence and then Crawford, it doesn't take long for Tank to make quick work of the guard and power his way into Newton.

Lawerence's commitment to rushing with power to the inside has taken his game to an elite level, making him one of the most unpredictable rushers in the league thanks to his added edge ability - seen in the next clip against the Lions.

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Lawrence was able to get to Matthew Stafford three times in the Cowboys most recent win, doing so cleanly here with a win off the corner. Catching the right tackle leaning to the outside just slightly, Lawrence takes advantage off the line to capture the edge while chopping his blocker's hands to finish the rush.

Notice the tackle's hand placement up high on the shoulder of Lawrence as he bends the corner, allowing him to continue directly into the path of Stafford. Defeating blocks in this way has become a signature of Lawrence's game, and his closing speed to finish around the quarterback is  yet another thing he does at an incredibly high level.

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This next sack of Stafford is a fantastic effort from Lawrence. Again attacking the right guard with Crawford twisting to the outside, the Lions OL does a much better job handling this action.

Once the guard is able to disengage from Crawford, he's in good position to deal with a charging Lawrence. What Tank does so well here is recognize this early as he cuts to the inside, knowing immediately how he wants to attack the guard. Setting him up further to the inside, Lawrence again uses his chop move to disengage and counter back to the inside.

The speed at which Lawrence executes this move gives him as clear of a path as he'll have to any QB. Coming out of it with his usual balance and burst, Lawrence is on top of Stafford before the Lions' right guard has even turned around from off the turf.

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Here is another win from Lawrence off the strong side edge. Though he's forced behind the pocket further than he'd like, Lawrence never gives up on his rush to get back to Stafford. His ability to record a third sack in this game is really set up by the slight diversion of his path around the corner.

By turning just slightly towards the inside on this arc, Lawrence gains leverage once engaging the tackle. Forcing the blocker's hands to his inside shoulder again, Lawrence is free to rip under the block and chase down another sack.

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It's not just the Cowboys secondary that's benefited from the addition of Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard. Leading a more aggressive, blitzing defense, it's Anthony Brown from his cornerback position that helps Lawrence get to Eli Manning here.

Running the same twist with Crawford, Lawrence catches the guard preoccupied with Tyrone as Saquon Barkley sprints to pickup Brown crashing on the blitz. This was Lawrence's cleanest sack of the season, and a shot you'll never see him miss.

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Last but surely not least, here is Lawrence's sack of Russell Wilson in Seattle. The Seahawks did a good job managing the Cowboys pass rush despite their OL issues in this game by balancing their rushing attack. On this occasion though, Lawrence is left to running back Mike Davis lined up tight.

All Davis manages to do is push Lawrence across the face of the right tackle, who's left in terrible position to deal with him shooting the gap. Doing so while managing to "pick through the trash", Lawrence arrives with a blitzing Sean Lee to sack Wilson.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

When the Cowboys used the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence this offseason, they wanted him to prove he can string together consecutive dominant seasons at defensive end. Four games hardly makes a season for Lawrence, but it's been so far so good for all of the "Hot Boyz" as Lawrence leads the way with 5.5 sacks.

The battle for the Governor's Cup on Sunday Night Football is likely to be decided in the trenches. The Texans may have household names in J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, but the Cowboys will rightfully take Lawerence's level of play over anyone right now - needing him to be a disruptive force against Deshaun Watson.

Tell us what you think about "Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence’s League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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Cowboys to Use 5th-Year Option on Ezekiel Elliott’s Contract

Jess Haynie

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Ezekiel Elliott, Rams

To nobody's surprise, the Dallas Cowboys intend to exercise the fifth-year option on star Running Back Ezekiel Elliott's contract. This will keep Zeke signed with the Cowboys through the 2020 season.

The deadline for teams to use the options years on the draft class of 2016 is Thursday, May 2nd, just a few days following the 2019 NFL Draft.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on the team eventually exercising the fifth-year option on Ezekiel Elliott's contract: "Obviously we're gonna do it.

It's appropriate that Stephen said "obviously," because there is no reason for the Cowboys not to utilize this provision. It's one of the perks of drafting a player in the first round; the option does not apply to any other rookie deals.

Right now, the 2020 option year projects to pay Elliott around $10 million. That is a bargain considering other franchise backs like Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, and David Johnson are all now averaging $13-$14 million per season.

In fact, it may be more of a discount than Zeke is willing to give. He may very well holdout if the team doesn't give him a new contact closer to his market value.

For all we know, the Cowboys have every intention of doing just that. This move is little more than a formality; a placeholder that prevents Elliott from entering unrestricted free agency in 2020 and secures his rights while a new deal is negotiated.



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Connor Williams Adding Size and Strength Huge for Cowboys OL

John Williams

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All-22 Notes: Connor Williams Stands Out in Wild Card Win

It's no secret that heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, the book on Connor Williams coming out of Texas was that he didn't have enough length to play tackle in the NFL and didn't have enough bulk to play guard. At least not at first.

It was an issue we saw play out early in the 2018 season as he struggled with some of the more powerful defensive tackles. He struggled so much that the team went to Xavier Su'a-Filo during his injury and for a couple games after he was healthy, thinking they had a better option. After having a bit of time to sit back and watch, Williams came back into the starting lineup with a better feel for that power and was much improved over the last half of the season, including the playoffs. He never relinquished his job again.

Though he played better, it was obvious what his number one offseason focus would be; adding size and strength. According to Dallas Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones, he's done just that.

Speaking to 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday afternoon, Jones gave us some insight into how Williams is looking this offseason.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on offensive lineman Connor Williams, last year's second round pick: "My understanding is that he's taken some huge steps in terms of his strength and size. My understanding is that he's put on some really good weight.

Jones then added some lofty expectations on the second year guard from the University of Texas.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on @1053thefan: "I think Connor Williams is gonna be a mainstay in our offensive line for many years to come. ... I think we'll be talking about him just like we do several of the other players on our offensive line.

Connor Williams was already proving himself capable of standing up to powerful defensive lineman as late in the season and in the playoffs, but this is very encouraging to hear as we look to 2019.

Against the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams, Williams and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys interior offensive line had big challenges in front of them. Seattle's Jarran Reed and Los Angeles' Aaron Donald were two of the better defensive tackles in 2018. Donald, is considered by many, the best defensive player in the NFL because of his brute strength that is matched by his quickness.

Against both players, Williams performed well. Not perfect, but well enough to be encouraged about what Williams could bring in 2019. Per Pro Football Focus, he only allowed five total pressures during the playoffs, including one in the divisional round against the Rams. There's a reason that everyone is so high on Williams heading into his second year.

The front office included.

Stephen Jones praise is significant. The Dallas Cowboys feature three All-Pro offensive lineman. To say that "we'll be talking about him just like we do several of the other players on our offensive line" is very high praise. There aren't many teams in the NFL that boast as much talent along the offensive line as the Dallas Cowboys do in Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick. For Jones to think Williams cold be that level of player doesn't sound like generic front office speak.

With a full year under his belt, including two playoff starts, Williams should be confident heading into his second year. Adding strength and weight will help him anchor better against the strong interiors he'll face weekly in the NFL. Getting Center Travis Frederick back in the lineup will help him with the mental aspect of the game.

There's a lot to be excited about with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and the offensive line remains one of those things. How Connor Williams improves from year one to year two will be one of the major storylines throughout the offseason heading toward week one. The Cowboys offensive line remains a focal point for America's Team and all eyes will be on Williams as he looks to make the second year jump.



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La’el Collins Has Surgery Ahead of Contract Year

Mauricio Rodriguez

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La'el Collins

The list of injured Dallas Cowboys players getting surgery keeps getting larger. DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones will welcome La'el Collins to the "surgery recovery" group chat after Collins had a procedure to repair a torn rotator cuff.  According to the report from Forth-Worth Star Telegram, Collins suffered the injury at the end of the 2018 season.

La'el Collins expects to be ready for training camp, but don't expect much from him in the upcoming offseason program.

For Collins, this is a very meaningful season. At 25 years old, he's heading into a contract year in 2019. So far, his career has been decent at best. He began playing at guard, where he showed some pretty impressive flashes before moving to right tackle, where he's started since 2017.

Even before it was reported that he would have surgery, many in Cowboys Nation have wondered about his future. The truth is, since he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015, his career hasn't lived up to the hype. Prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, an off-the-field misunderstanding made every team pass on him. However, he was seen by many as a top prospect in the class and was a projected first round pick.

Although he improved when Marc Colombo took over as the OL coach, Collins has struggled during his time at right tackle. At this point, he hasn't earned a long term deal.

La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Right now, the Cowboys should see offensive tackle as a need in the NFL Draft. Not a priority one, but definitely one to watch out for in the later rounds. Tyron Smith is 28 years old, but his injury history doesn't look promising at all. I can definitely see this team addressing the lack of depth at the position at some point in Day 3.

This whole discussion raises yet another question. Would the Cowboys trade La'el Collins? I don't think it would happen, but it doesn't sound like a terrible idea either. At the moment, Cameron Fleming is on the roster and he isn't a bad starter. Now granted, he might be a downgrade from Collins. However, if you're able to get a good draft pick in exchange, it's worth considering. Use Fleming as a bridge player between for a younger one down the line.

Connor Williams could also move over to tackle, although I doubt they want to try experiments like this with a young player just like they did with La'el Collins. Let Williams grow as a guard and keep him there.

La'el Collins or not, the Cowboys have a need at offensive tackle and Collins' makes it even more evident. The good news is he expects to be back by training camp and doesn't seem like a huge question mark for week 1 as DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones do.

Tell me what you think about "La’el Collins Has Surgery Ahead of Contract Year" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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