Once free agency started back in March All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence was coming off back to back double-digit sack seasons. That level of play put him in the conversation with guys like Khalil Mack and Von Miller when the topic of who is the NFL’s best pass rusher came about.
The Dallas Cowboys rewarded Lawrence in April with a five-year 105 million dollar extension with 65 million in guarantees. However, so far this season we haven’t seen Lawrence perform at the level we’ve grown accustomed to with just five sacks in 12 games. Some of that may be attributed to him rehabbing a torn labrum and missing most of the offseason program. Nonetheless, with 25 sacks the previous two seasons you just expect more. With a month left before the playoffs begin, it’s more paramount than ever for Lawrence to regain the form we saw the previous two seasons.
Lawrence playing elite football affects the defense in several ways. For one thing, it makes it easier for the other defensive linemen to be effective. Defensive End Robert Quinn is a monster coming off the right side with his amazing first step quickness and bend around the edge. If Lawrence can be a terror on the other side it will create one on one opportunities for both he and Quinn. Also, it gives Michael Bennett, Mailek Collins, and Antwaun Woods a better chance at making plays because offenses would have to protect the perimeter pass rush of Lawrence and Quinn so much with extra blockers or have them chipped by running backs.
The linebacking core benefits from Lawrence playing well also. The more attention Lawrence and others draw on the line of scrimmage will make it difficult for offensive linemen to reach the second level and put a hat Jaylon Smith and the other linebackers. This ultimately allows your linebackers to roam freely and make plays all over the field.
The last beneficiary of Lawrence playing elite football is the secondary. If he’s applying pressure on a regular basis it cuts down the amount of time the opposing team’s receivers have to get open, essentially making life easier for all the Cowboys defensive backs.
As you can see, Lawrence being a force makes everyone around him better on all three levels of this defense. Quinn has been the team’s best rusher with 9.5 sacks in 10 games. However, the leader and tone-setter should be and has to be Lawrence, that’s what a 21 million dollar a year salary demands.
This is not to say that Lawrence’s play hasn’t improved from the beginning of the season because it has. He only had nine tackles total in the first six games of the season, however, he’s registered 29 tackles in the six games since. Also, he’s racked up eight tackles for loss the last six games as opposed to only two in the first six games.
Lawrence is best known for one thing, though, getting sacks. He only has a half-sack in the last month and that simply isn’t good enough for the paycheck he gets.
The Cowboys are fighting for their playoff lives at 6-6. A big reason why is the inconsistency of their defensive unit. It all starts at the line of scrimmage and if Lawrence can somehow find a way to set the tone this defense can be really good as the playoff push heats up. I firmly believe Lawrence will have one of those vintage performances soon which could not only catapult himself but the entire defense as a whole. The Cowboys season has come down to these final four games and there’s hardly any margin for error. “Tank” as he’s referred to is still an extremely important part of this defense and the Cowboys need him to remind the world why they gave him such a large piggy bank.