If not for Tony Romo, this week's return of defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence would be the most-anticipated debut of the season. He was arguably the team's second-best defensive player last season, behind Sean Lee, and will be bringing his talent to it's most beleaguered position.
The question is just how much Lawrence can help this anemic Cowboys pass rush. Can he really make enough of a difference?
After four weeks, Dallas' defense is near the bottom of the league with just six sacks. Only five teams have less. For comparison, the top-ranked Broncos defense has produced 17 sacks. Most other teams have at least nine or more sacks this year.
Last season, DeMarcus Lawrence had eight sacks in 16 games. That's certainly not a huge number, but you have to dig deeper.
Of those sacks, seven came in the last eight games of 2015. Still just a second-year player, Lawrence's "light bulb" seemed to come on during that season-closing stretch. He would have had 14 sacks if that same production had applied the entire year.
Coming off a suspension instead of an injury, Lawrence should be able to hit the ground running. He's been able to work out with the team and got to participate fully in the team's offseason program, training camp, and preseason.
Even if there's a touch of rust from a month without practices or games, Lawrence's talent far outweighs any of the Cowboys other defensive ends. He will certainly be an upgrade.
However, will that be enough to make the pass rush effective?
Last year, despite having DeMarcus Lawrence and Greg Hardy, Dallas was still near the bottom of the league in total sacks. Hardy's production fizzled as Lawrence emerged, leaving the team still relatively ineffective.
What's more, Lawrence will likely be playing from a new position. Last year he was the "strong side" defensive end, going against other team's right tackles. Now he will probably be playing on the other side of the line and facing the left tackles, often the far better pass blockers.
This isn't to say that there's no reason for hope. Lawrence's return could be the catalyst for improvement across the line. The Cowboys will be hoping in the following:
- Tyrone Crawford's move to the LDE will prove to be the right fit. He has two sacks this year already playing from the left edge.
- Lawrence's presence on the outside will create more opportunities for Maliek Collins, Terrell McClain, and Cedric Thornton to disrupt the pocket from the middle.
- If Lawrence can draw some double teams, blitzers could find clear paths to the quarterback.
- Guys like Jack Crawford, David Irving, and Benson Mayowa can be more effective as part of a rotation than with heavy responsibility.
Even without pressure on quarterbacks, Dallas' secondary has been performing better in 2016 than in the last few season. Any semblance of a pass rush could lead to more turnover opportunities; more of the ripple effect.
Obviously, nobody expects that DeMarcus Lawrence is going to suddenly turn this defense into the '85 Bears. However, the Cowboys have managed to get to 3-1 despite their pass rushing woes. If Lawrence can bring any kind of consistent improvement to the pass rush, it could be enough to counter the improved offenses that Dallas will face as the season goes on.
Lawrence and the Cowboys will be tested over the next two weeks. The Bengals' Andy Dalton is steady and efficient, with the potential for big numbers thanks to A.J. Green. It's probably the best offense Dallas has faced all season.
The following week, Dallas will head to Lambeau for Aaron Rodgers. In their 2014 playoff matchup, the Cowboys' inability to get to Rodgers was the real reason they lost that game. He should be much healthier this time around than he was then.
When Dallas goes into their bye week after that Green Bay game, we'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect the reason of the season from the defense. Hopefully, Lawrence is ready to play to his full potential.
Otherwise, 3-1 could turn into 3-3 pretty darn fast.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
REPORT: Police Detain Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford After Bar Fight
According to TMZ, Tyrone Crawford was involved in a brawl at a bar in Panama City, FL last Friday night. The Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman and team captain was detained by police but apparently was not arrested.
The level of Crawford's involvement has not been substantiated, but TMZ's report does have him shoving police officers at some point in the action. The incident was reportedly captured by surveillance equipment at the bar.
Given that he was not arrested, one could assume that Tyrone was not one of the primary players in the melee. But that doesn't mean the NFL won't still review this matter as it relates to the personal conduct policy, and Cowboys fans know too well how "fair" that process can be.
This is certainly not a story you'd expect to see attached to Tyrone Crawford, who has been a model citizen and leader since entering the league in 2012.
Dallas elected to keep Crawford this season despite solid potential savings. He will count $10.1 million against their 2019 salary cap, which is high for his average production. However, he can play multiple positions and is one of their most experienced players.
Even if Tyrone were to get suspended by the league, it likely wouldn't be more than a one or two-game ban given his record and reputation. It shouldn't change anything about his status with the team.
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