There’s a common misconception out there about Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence among many Dallas Cowboys fans. You know what I’m talking about. The idea that Lawrence didn’t play good football in 2019. His sack total of five on the season disappointed many fans, but the truth is that basic stat doesn’t tell the whole story. Lawrence was one of the league’s leaders according to more advanced stats such as ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate. He also excelled in run defense consistently.
However, there might be some truth to the fact that he didn’t shine as much as he did in 2017 and 2018. With the Cowboys’ recent additions of defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, improvement should be in order.
It’s fair to point out the Cowboys’ defensive line didn’t look as dominant last season in general, though. Despite quality play from Lawrence and Robert Quinn, issues in the trenches were a constant headache in the team’s 8-8 campaign.
Play at defensive tackle was surprisingly poor. Rod Marinelli’s unit was disappointing, to say the least. Antwaun Woods played only 10 games in the season and didn’t fully live up to the hype, despite playing well overall. Maliek Collins was once again explosive but inconsistent. The Cowboys had to bring in Michael Bennett midseason to help the defense.
Even still, the defensive line’s woes continued. Said woes were extended to the linebackers, who had a poor campaign of their own. Faulty play in the interior defensive line forced Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee to make more reads and chasing running backs through gaps they weren’t responsible for.
McCoy and Poe should fix that. Both players did a very good job playing with the Carolina Panthers in 2019, where they combined for 11 sacks and were solid contributors versus the run. Their stop in Dallas should be a successful one for themselves, but multiple players will be very benefited. As mentioned above, the linebackers’ jobs should be considerably easier.
But back to DeMarcus Lawrence. Both Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe are dangerous tackles when pass rushing. Dallas hasn’t truly had that since David Irving’s short career on the team. Lawrence is the victim of plenty of double-teams as opponents try to limit him, but how much can you double-team a guy when you’re facing these defensive tackles? It won’t be easy.
If the Cowboys are able to add another decent defensive end to rotate with Tyrone Crawford on the other side of the defensive line (maybe Randy Gregory makes another return?), Lawrence should be on his way to another monster season. He might even eclipse his 2017 sack total of 14.5 to keep fans happy.
The Cowboys got better at defensive tackle, and we can’t overlook the impact it will have on defense. Plenty of players’ play will look better next season. We might be hearing about plenty of “bounce-back seasons” which will be caused by McCoy and Poe.