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.
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.