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Cowboys Nation Chooses Defensive Ends to Start 2016

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Nation Chooses Defensive Ends to Start 2016

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.

//insidethestar.com/cowboys-headlines/cowboys-defensive-hopes-rest-in-the-secondary/

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:

Dan Turner on Twitter

Week 1, who starts for the #Cowboys at RDE?

Dan Turner on Twitter

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.

//insidethestar.com/cowboys-headlines/how-benson-mayowa-fits-cowboys-blueprint/

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.

 

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Nation Chooses Defensive Ends to Start 2016 2

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

 

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.

Who would you choose to start at defensive end for the Cowboys in week 1? Let us know! Comment below to share your thoughts, or email me at sean.martin@insidethestar.com!

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Nation Chooses Defensive Ends to Start 2016" 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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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Kevin Black

    July 13, 2016 at 8:44 am

    I think you'll see Mayowa and the right side and Russell on the left, with Irving being moved all over the defensive line. On pass rush downs, you can put Irving at any position along the line and he should succeed. He's the perfect person to give a rest on those downs to whoever needs it with almost no drop-off in ability. I just don't see Marinelli pigeon holing Irving into just one position.

    • Sean Martin

      Sean Martin

      July 14, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Thanks for reading, Kevin! I agree with all of this completely, the big question in this lineup comes from Russell though. If he progresses as well as it seems he could, I have no problem with him lining up down the line from Mayowa and Irving being used in that exact role. Thanks again.

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2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch

Kevin Brady

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Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL's Top 10 Rookies

As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.

It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.

Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.

No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.

Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.

There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.

Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.

Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.



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Star Blog

What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?

Kevin Brady

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.

Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.

They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?

Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.

Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.

Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.

Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.

Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.

This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.

The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.



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Star Blog

3 Things We Learned About The Dallas Cowboys In 2018

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

Coming into the 2018 season, loads of questions surrounded the Dallas Cowboys and the future of their roster.

Could their defense stay intact when the annual Sean Lee injury occurred? Was Kris Richard going to lead the Cowboys young secondary to places we thought they could be? And would Dak Prescott earn a contact extension and become the official franchise quarterback of America's Team.

Of course, there are tons of other questions that may have gone unanswered, but these three critical areas seem to find clarity in 2018.

Leighton Vander Esch And Jaylon Smith Are Legit

The Dallas Cowboys caught a lot of flack for their selection both of these linebackers, each for different reasons.

When they snagged Jaylon Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft, it was still unknown to the public if Smith could ever even play football again. When they took Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall last April, fans questioned how valuable an off-ball linebacker would be on a defense that already had Sean Lee.

Well, after their first full season together, it's easy to say that both Vander Esch and Smith are the linebacker options of the future in Dallas. Named to the Pro Bowl during his rookie season, Vander Esch took the world by storm in 2018. When Lee went down, he was there to not only fill his shoes, but to outplay the veteran all year long.

What is fun to consider is that as good as Vander Esch was this season, Jaylon Smith might be even better. Both posses insane sideline to sideline pursuit ability, and are some of the surest tacklers in all of football.

Watching these two grow together will be a pleasure over the coming seasons.

Their Young Secondary Is Coming Together

Like their linebackers, the Dallas Cowboys secondary is a young group, who fans are excited to watch grow throughout the years. It seemed like more pressure sat on the shoulders of young cornerbacks Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie than of Smith and Vander Esch, however.

With Kris Richard joining the staff and making the decision to move Jones to cornerback full time, it was do-or-die for the former first round pick. Byron Jones answered all the doubters, earning not only a Pro Bowl selection but also First Team All Pro honors for his performance.

Opposite him, Awuzie had a rough start to his sophomore campaign. While typically right there in coverage, wide outs too often made contested catches over him. Over the final few weeks of the year, however, that changed and Awuzie played some of the best football yet.

Xavier Woods, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis (in much fewer snaps) all had fantastic seasons as well, giving the Cowboys great hope and confidence in their secondary moving forward. They may need to add another safety during the offseason, however, though Jeff Heath remains more than just a viable option.

Dak Prescott Is Here To Stay

Whether or not you think it's justified, Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the future in Dallas. And he earned that right the back-half of 2018 and during the postseason. After a shaky start to his 3rd season, Prescott turned things around nicely, leading the Cowboys to a 7-1 finish to the regular season.

Prescott played the best football of his young career down the stretch, and showed just how valuable he is both on the field and in the locker room. It seemed like every game he made 2-3 winning plays that put the Cowboys over the top that afternoon.

Dak is going to get a contract extension, and will be locked in as a Cowboy for the foreseeable future, and with the way he played the final 10 games of his season, I can't second guess this decision much at all.



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