By now, if you’re a loyal follower of the Dallas Cowboys, you are already tired of the team’s off season talk being centered around the dreary situation Rod Marinelli and the Cowboys’ defense finds themselves in entering 2016.
Particularly, Dallas’ defensive line has been tightly scrutinized, after an already unproven unit suffered suspensions to Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence.
While I am not as pessimistic as most about the current state of the Cowboys’ pass rushers, the unit will certainly face an uphill battle to perform at a level capable of bringing this team to where they want to go.
That journey for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys will officially begin on September 11th against the New York Giants. Must-follow Cowboys analyst Dan Turner recently took to Twitter to ask Cowboys Nation who will be getting after Eli Manning when the game actually means something at AT&T Stadium that night.
Here are the results for the right and left defensive end positions:
Week 1, who starts for the #Cowboys at RDE?
Week 1, who starts for the #Cowboys at LDE?
Before we break down these results further, it is important to always remember how relative of a term “starter” is when it comes to defensive linemen in Marinelli’s scheme. The third-year defensive coordinator is known for sending waves of “rushmen” after the quarterback, constantly throwing different looks at opposing offenses.
With that, there is a strong chance that all six above players will see snaps at defensive end for the Cowboys as early as week one. According to fans, getting the first crack on the right side (against Giants’ LT Ereck Flowers – who looked silly in this game last year against Randy Gregory) will be the newly acquired Benson Mayowa.
In limited time with the Seahawks and Raiders, Mayowa has not proven much in his short NFL career outside of the ability to play with a high motor and rush with speed around the edge.
Mayowa will be a guy to keep a close eye on during training camp this summer, after he was taken out of minicamp with a knee injury. The Cowboys will be the first team that Mayowa gets a significant opportunity to develop with, and the young athletic stud could end up being a hidden gem on the right side of the defensive line.
On the left side, DeMarcus Lawrence hopes to return in week 5 to reclaim the position that he dominated in during the second half of the 2015 season. Until then, it is no surprise to see David Irving becoming the fan’s pick to fill in on that side of the field.
Irving has forced the Cowboys to take notice of him ever since joining the team after week 3 of the 2015 season via the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad. With all the physical attributes and ability to wreak havoc on Marinelli’s defensive front, Irving did just that with his chances lined up at defensive tackle.
Now, with the defensive tackle position being one of the stronger spots for this Dallas defense, David Irving could be called upon to disrupt plays from the far left end spot. This is a desirable position for the long-armed Irving, who can help the Cowboys run defense while putting pressure on quarterbacks with adequate speed around the edge.
With Tyrone Crawford and Cedric Thornton expected to start next to each other in the middle of the Cowboys 4-3 alignment, the results of this fan poll would see a starting defensive line of – from right to left – Benson Mayowa, Cedric Thornton, Tyrone Crawford, and David Irving.
While I’m not here to say that those four players are going to be the reason the Cowboys’ beat the Giants to open their season, it is certainly a promising group full of potential. With the likes of Jack Crawford, Ryan Russell, and rookie Charles Tapper also ready to prove themselves at defensive end as well, the Cowboys defensive line is going to be out to prove a lot of people wrong – and very well may do that starting soon.