The Dallas Cowboys had a real football practice yesterday. Yes, it's okay to be excited about it even if it was only a walk through.
With the first practice comes our first look at what the coaches believe to be their starting units, if they were to build a depth chart on day one. For the most part, there weren't any surprises with who lined up with the first unit. Still, there is still some interesting analysis to be drawn from the Cowboys initial starting defense.
1st D is:
LCB – 24
RCB – 30
Slot CB – 32
FS – 31
SS – 38
WLB – 50
MLB – 59
LDE – 98
DT – 92
DT – 96
DE – 90
As you can deduce from David Helman's tweet, the Cowboys first defense was their current nickel set. In the secondary, there isn't much to discuss. Byron Jones and Jeff Heath are the starting safeties, as we expected. Nolan Carroll and Anthony Brown are the starting cornerbacks, with Orlando Scandrick working in the slot.
Jaylon Smith is absent from the starting linebackers, but that was to be anticipated. Anthony Hitchens, a serviceable player, and Sean Lee, the best defensive player on the team, are the starting backers.
Up front is where things get more interesting.
Second year stud Maliek Collins and former Eagle Cedric Thornton line up on the inside, while DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford begin at defensive end. Crawford spent time both inside and out in 2016, moving around the defensive line as needed.
Lawrence is an intriguing case. If healthy, he may be the best defensive end on the Cowboys roster. The problem is, he simply has not been able to stay healthy. With nagging back issues we are right to question if Lawrence can hold up for an entire season.
If he can, however, he should be a productive defensive end for the Cowboys in 2017. If they can somehow get 6-8 sacks from DeMarcus Lawrence, the outlook for this defense will change drastically.
The only change I anticipate from now to week one, barring injury, is at left defensive end. I really do expect Taco Charlton to win the job by the end of camp. If not by then, I think he will be the Cowboys main LDE by the middle of this season. Maybe I am being a little to rash in my predictions, but I do like what Taco can bring.
For now, though, Tyrone Crawford holds the spot and a chance to be the full time starter. Another player to look out for to overtake a defensive end spot would be Benson Mayowa, who reportedly spent all of day one getting reps at RDE.