Our 2019 Training Camp Preview series comes to an end with the defensive ends. With four news faces and a former 1st-round pick fighting to save his career, it should be a lively and competitive camp for these Cowboys DEs.
We already know that DeMarcus Lawrence will be missing as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. That probably would’ve been the case even without the delay from his contract negotiations, but the wait for the new deal ensured that Tank would be out for camp and likely the preseason as well.
Being without Lawrence adds an interesting wrinkle; who gets those first-team reps in his absence?
Here is our projected depth chart for the defensive ends in this 2019 training camp:
- Robert Quinn, Taco Charlton
- Kerry Hyder, Dorance Armstrong
- Joe Jackson, Jalen Jelks
Veteran Robert Quinn seemed an obvious pick here. The Cowboys took on an $8 million cap hit to add Quinn this offseason, suggesting that they intend him to be a major figure on the defensive line.
Despite his struggles last year, Taco Charlton should get a chance to sink or swim in this pivotal third season. He may never live up to his draft capital, but Taco could still be a key rotation piece and more if something happens to a starter. What he does the next few weeks will go a long way to determining his future in Dallas.
If Charlton doesn’t show well, veteran free agent Kerry Hyder could quickly steal his spot. Dallas took a risk on Hyder due to his eight sacks in 2016, hoping he can bounce back from a 2017 injury and being miscast in 2018 in Detroit’s switch to the 3-4 defense. Kerry was a standout performer in the spring practices and appears ready to get back to his former self.
Thought not listed on our depth chart, the potential return of Randy Gregory hangs over this position. If the NFL awards his reinstatement request, Gregory would likely walk in to a prominent role like he had in 2018.
Randy’s return would be great news for the team but bad for the other DE prospects. He would likely knock Charlton and Hyder back down the ladder while also potentially pushing other guys off the 53-man roster.
One prospect who should be safe either way is Dorance Armstrong. A 4th-round pick in 2018, Armstrong has flashed some natural pass rushing skills and still has three years left on his rookie deal. The Cowboys aren’t going to part with an asset like that so quickly.
But the situation isn’t so good for rookies Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks. Even with a 5th-round pick spent on him this year, Jackson is going to struggle to make the roster if both Lawrence and Gregory are back for Week One. His best hope is that Dallas decides to move on from Taco Charlton.
Just a 7th-round pick, Jelks will have an especially tough road to the roster. His best bet may actually be converting to linebacker and challenging Chris Covington for the backup SAM role.
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OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS
- Running Back
- Wide Receiver
- Tight End
- Offensive Tackle
- Guard & Center
- Defensive Tackle
- Special Teams