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Edge Rusher Still a Major Weakness for Dallas Cowboys Defense

The Dallas Cowboys look to be in excellent shape for 2020. In both free agency and the NFL Draft, they addressed significant issues on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

In the secondary, the Dallas Cowboys added Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Maurice Canady, and Darryl Worley in free agency and re-signed Anthony Brown and C.J. Goodwin. They drafted Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson. While there may not be a guy who is a number one cornerback, in the wake of Byron Jones’ departure for Miami, they have a good group of players they can use to make it work. There’s enough talent there.

Though they lost Maliek Collins at defensive tackle, they signed Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe and drafted Neville Gallimore. What looked like weakness when free agency started now seems pretty solid and has some upside.

In the draft, they added CeeDee Lamb and Tyler Biadasz to positions that needed to be addressed and re-signed Amari Cooper. While tight end may not inspire fear in many teams around the league, there’s a lot of optimism about what Blake Jarwin could do given a starter’s portion of the snaps in 2020.

Even the quarterback depth chart saw got an upgrade when the team signed former Cincinnati Bengals starting quarterback Andy Dalton to a one-year deal to be the backup. His experience will provide a boost to the entire offense. As a player, he’ll allow the coaching staff to get a good look at the down roster players. He could even serve as a mentor to seventh-round draft pick Ben DiNucci, allowing Dak Prescott to focus solely on game preparation.

The one area that still seems unresolved is what happens at edge rusher opposite DeMarcus Lawrence.

Yes, there’s a possibility that Randy Gregory or Aldon Smith are reinstated and make a significant impact on the team. However, until that happens, it’s best not to count on either guy. Knowing what we know about the way the Commissioner of the NFL wields his hammer of justice, there’s no telling exactly how he’ll rule when it comes time to give a verdict on Gregory and Smith.

Even if they are reinstated, there’s no telling what kind of players they’ll be after being gone for so long.

Gregory hasn’t played a down of football since the end of 2018. Aldon Smith has been out of the league since 2015. Those long layoffs will cast doubt on their ability to provide meaningful snaps at the other edge rusher spot.

Dorance Armstrong has shown flashes as a rotational player, but they’ve been just that; flashes. He’s yet to put together a string of games that would lead one to believe that a breakout is near. He could step up and fill the void at the other defensive end position, but at this point, we don’t know if he can.

Fifth-round pick Bradlee Anae is the guy that is the most intriguing. His elite production at the University of Utah, combined with his skill set, make him an option to step in and start early in his career. That said, his athleticism could hold him back from making an impact early on.

Aside from DeMarcus Lawrence, there isn’t an edge rusher to feel great about on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line. There are guys we hope will work out and guys with promise. But, as the saying goes, “hope isn’t a plan.”

As they’ve shown all offseason, they’ll be aggressive in patching a hole. There are still some very intriguing names available in free agency for them to pursue.

Jadeveon Clowney, Everson Griffen, and Markus Golden are still available. And now that signed free agents won’t count against next year’s compensatory pick formula, nothing is holding the Dallas Cowboys back from making a move to address edge rusher.

They want to be an aggressive team this year on both sides of the ball. On defense, that means they’ll blitz more. Even though they’ll send an extra rusher more frequently, it’s still not the best plan to go into a season with Dorance Armstrong, Tyrone Crawford, or Bradlee Anae as your other defensive end.

As they’ve done all offseason, the Cowboys need to make a move to fill the considerable hole vacated by Robert Quinn. They’ve got the options and the money to make it happen. All it takes is the will to do so.

What do you think?

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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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      • Note that my comment was made prior to Erving being signed. With that in mind, I felt that depth there was more important because history suggests that Smith will miss at least 3 games. We have the numbers to throw at RDE, and if all things shake out, we may even have too many numbers and could conceivably release some decent talent at cut time. As for this very moment, Crawford is suitable as a starter.

        • Note that even if you sign a Griffen, etc. these young kids will get playing time regardless because defensive lineman rotate throughout a game. Offensive linemen do not. If Anae, Gregory, Smith, Crawford all have to rotate at RDE, that’s not as bad as having no OT to play every snap in either Smith’s or Collin’s absence.

  1. Although, they can probably go with Armstrong, Anae, and Crawford and be ok. Smith and Gregory would be icing on cake.

  2. Maybe I’m missing something but what has Gregory done, when he was actually able to suit up, to have fans salivating over him as a possible right end? Now, I haven’t looked up his statistics but I just don’t remember him doing anything. He’s a non factor at this point other than he has been well rested for the last few years.

    • Just looked up Gregory. When available, which ain’t much, he’s played in 28 games, had 45 career tackles and 7 sacks. I think I want to see the rookie play and see how he does. Hopefully he can out produce that weak link, Randy Gregory. Great college talent but has been a dumpster fire since smoking weed at the combine.

  3. We don’t need anymore edge rushers….. We have so many now that we’re gonna have to cut a couple of them!! I would like to have Everson Griffen, but why would we sign a player at a position that would leave us having to cut another player just to play him for a year!? That wouldn’t make sense!! We’re better off keeping the players we have on their rookie contracts and giving them time at edge!! A position that we really do need is strong safety!! That’s a position that we actually need!!

  4. Well done article. And you touched on the fact that a much stronger rotation in the middle will help the pass rush where one side is strong and the other side is a committee of largely unknowns.

    Not sure teams will be able to run, certainly not as well as last year, on our front 4.

  5. Release both Crawford & Gregory then sign Griffin

    Remember Crawford was placed on IR last year and still hasn’t recovered from him injury plus releasing him would free up over 10mil in cap space (less than Griffin’s 1yr deal) Gregory loves weed and is nothing but an eyesore for this organization. Time to let young talent take the field.

    RDE: Griffin, Armstrong, Anae

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