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DeMarcus Lawrence Still the Key for New Look Cowboys Defense

There’s been a lot of turnover on the defensive side of the football during the 2020 offseason. They’ve made several additions to the defensive line and the defensive backfield. There’s a new coaching staff that’s bringing a more aggressive philosophy to the defense. Despite all the turnover that the Cowboys faced on defense from 2019 to now, the most important player remains; DeMarcus Lawrence.

Lawrence wasn’t able to hit the double-digit sack threshold like he did in 2017 and 2018, but he was still incredibly effective as both a pass rusher and run defender. His five sacks were the fewest he’s had in a season in which he played 16 games. Sacks are important, but they don’t tell the whole story of Lawrence’s 2019 season.

DeMarcus Lawrence finished third in run stop percentage among players who played at least 202 snaps in 2019 per Pro Football Focus after finishing second in the NFL in 2018. Per ESPN, Lawrence was third in the NFL in 2019 in pass rush win rate. In 2018, he was fourth in pass rush win rate.

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As you can see from the graphic above by Seth Walder of ESPN, Lawrence was one of the best edge rushers in the NFL. He was fifth in the NFL in double-team rate among edge rushers. Walder defines pass rush win rate as rushes that beat the blocker within 2.5 seconds.

Every indication is that the Dallas Cowboys will blitz more under Mike Nolan than they did with Rod Marinelli as defensive coordinator. Forcing the interior offensive line and running backs to think about the blitz more frequently will keep teams from chipping or doubling Lawrence as much because they’ll have to account for the extra rushers.

DeMarcus Lawrence will enter the 2020 season (whenever it happens) fully healthy and looking to rebound from a sack perspective. If the Dallas Cowboys can get the sack production out of Lawrence that we saw in 2015, 2017, and 2018 it will go a long way to helping the Cowboys get back into the playoffs in 2020.

Lawrence is the total package at defensive end. He’s as good of a run defender as he is a pass rusher and teams have to game plan to slow him down. Even with all the new faces on the defense, DeMarcus Lawrence is still the engine that makes it all go. His leadership, intensity, tenacity, and ability will provide a spark for a defense that many people are expecting to be worse than it was in 2019.

With all of the changes around him, it’s great to have a player that plays at a high level every down. It’s because of that consistency that DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best edge rushers in the NFL. 2020 will be a reminder of that.

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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  1. Well said. Lee is equally respected but his reduced dependency puts Lawrence in the forefront as the leader of this defense. Gerald McCoy has the necessary skins to lead as well, but I suspect he’ll yield to Lawrence’s tenure here. People who say Lawrence slipped and relaxed now that he got laid, aren’t seeing the game correctly … he is clearly an Alpha dog and among the best DE’s in the game.

  2. We need D Lawrence and LVE to have monster yrs they are our best two defensive players and we are counting on them to play like it.

  3. Excellent analysis. I’ve always conceived of Demarcus Lawrence as a (sort of) poor man’s Michael Strahan–another rare defensive end who was every bit as stout against the run as he was against the pass.

    My concern about our ‘Boys, though, is on the other side of the line. With Travis Frederick retiring—as I predicted 18 months ago to Guillane- Barre Syndrome—and Tyron Smith’s back getting worse and worse each year since 2017 with a noticeable decline in his play over that time span–this team will only go as far as the offense takes them. And if 40% of our offensive line under-performs, that will put a disproportionate amount of pressure on a defense which–outside of Lawrence and Jaylon Smith– I’m not all that enthused about, frankly…

    We’ll see, but until further notice I’m less optimistic, John…

    End,
    Clifford
    Santa Monica

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