David Irving Injury Creates Opportunity for Maliek Collins

David Irving is one of the premier interior defensive lineman in the NFL, when he’s on the field. The problem is for various reasons over the last two seasons, David Irving has only been on the field for 10 games since the start of the 2017 season. His latest setback comes at a time when the Dallas Cowboys can’t really afford an injury on the defensive side of the ball with the way the offense has played. David Irving out means increased opportunities for Maliek Collins. And the Dallas Cowboys are going to need big play from him.

In his third year in the NFL, Maliek Collins has shown he has the ability to rush the passer. In his rookie, season when they asked him to primarily play the 3-technique (or under tackle) in the Dallas Cowboys 4-3 defense, he was really good. He totaled six sacks while playing all 16 games. In his second season when he played 16 games, yet again, Collins only had 2.5 sacks, but was asked to play more of the 1-technique (or nose tackle) role.

The big difference in the two defensive tackle alignments is that the 1-tech is typically lined up over the center. His job is to attract the double team from the opposing offensive line’s interior. Players aren’t going to flash in the box score from this spot very often. The 3-tech lines up between the guard and the tackle and looks to just penetrate. The 3-tech in Rod Marinelli’s scheme is asked to get quick up field penetration to attempt to disrupt the run or to force interior pressure on the quarterback.

Collins has done his job very well when playing either position, but obviously this team needs an interior rusher with David Irving out.

Antwaun Woods has become the Dallas Cowboys starting 1-tech and has been really good this season. He hasn’t made a ton of stops but he’s been the most effective at plugging the run game. With Woods solidifying the 1T, Collins can focus more on the position that he’s best at, the 3T.

It remains to be seen how long David Irving could be out for, but I’d be surprised if he played Monday night against the Tennessee Titans after being carted off the practice field. Reports are that it’s an ankle injury to Irving, which depending on severity, could leave him sidelined for more than a week. Maliek Collins is the Dallas Cowboys next best interior rusher.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys DL David Irving, who was carted off in practice, is believed to have suffered a high-ankle sprain, sources tell me and @SlaterNFL. X-Rays were negative. He’ll still have tests, but the early returns are not as bad as they could’ve been.

Maliek Collins saw his snap count jump from 17% in the Jacksonville game to 42% against the Washington Redskins. Against both the Redskins and the Jaguars, Collins recorded two total pressures, including one sack against the Jaguars. In four games this season, he’s nearly reached his 2017 sack total of 2.5.

With increased opportunities for Collins coming, I’d imagine him continuing to create havoc on the inside. Against the Tennessee Titans, Collins is going to have some chances to effect Quarterback Marcus Mariota.

According to Pro Football Focus, of the 56 pressures (sacks, hurries, and hits combined), allowed by the Titans’ offensive lineman, 35 of those pressures have come from the guards or centers in 2018. That’s 62.5% of the pressure allowed.

The Dallas Cowboys defense has been playing well as a unit, but they haven’t been getting consistent play along the defensive line from anyone other than DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys need Maliek Collins to step up and return to his rookie season form where he was a disruptive interior player who was second on the team in sacks and third on the team in total pressures. Getting back to his more natural role as the penetrating tackle will help him and the Dallas Cowboys get more production out of their defensive line and make things easier on the back seven.

With as well as the Dallas Cowboys defense has played, it’s downright scary how good they could be with a consistent pass rush to help them.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.


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