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Is it Too Little, Too Late for DE Dorance Armstrong in 2021?

We’re still months away from the Dallas Cowboys forming their 53-man roster and beginning the 2021 season. But as the team acquires new talent in free agency and the upcoming draft, they’re also evaluating how existing players fit into their plans. After three years as a developmental prospect at defensive end, how does Dorance Armstrong factor in?

Armstrong was one of two 4th-round selections for the Cowboys in 2018, taken 21 slots before Tight End Dalton Schultz. But while Schultz and even WR Cedrick Wilson (6th Round) have made names for themselves on offense, Armstrong has yet to put together much of a resume since joining the team.

Much of that is due to opportunities. Thought he’s been active for all but two games over the last three seasons, Dorance has only appeared on 24-33% of the defensive snaps in his backup role. This has partially led to his having just 2.5 career sacks.

It’s not all about playing time, though. Armstrong has mostly appeared on passing downs so could have reasonably done more as a pass rusher. Randy Gregory has 10.5 sacks with only about a hundred more snaps in his career.

That begs the question of Dorance Armstrong’s true value to the club going forward. Should the team invest more playing time in him in 2021 or is it time to let Bradlee Anae, Ron’Dell Carter, and fresher prospects have their day?

We mentioned Schultz and Wilson earlier; fellow players from the 2018 draft class who’ve already established themselves. Michael Gallup’s already a star at his position and, though they have some question marks on them, Leighton Vander Esch and Connor Williams are both clear starters heading into next season.

Of the players still on the team from the 2018 Draft, Dorance is the farthest behind in building an NFL career. He’s entering the final the year of his rookie with no real case to be made for getting a second contract.

It’s even possible that Armstrong might not get to finish out that rookie deal. Dallas could save $920k in salary cap space by releasing Dorance, which starts to sound enticing if they feel good about Anae, Carter, and other depth options.

Having already added Tarell Basham in free agency to DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, it could be tough for Armstrong to make the 2021 roster as it is. And if the Cowboys add another pass rusher in the upcoming draft, that goal will become much harder to reach.

Dorance Armstrong should be back to at least compete in training camp and the preseason. But if everyone stays healthy, and especially if anyone new joins the DE position this offseason, Armstrong will probably need a tremendous July and August to remain with the Cowboys this season.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!


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  1. This article misses the key insight.
    The offense coaches do a great job developing middle round backups into competent players who can come in and play where the defense coaches do not.
    This a core reason the defense is bad.

  2. With all due respect, can’t blame coaches alone for bad defense play. Player have to take some responsible for their own development. Unfortunately, Armstrong has not shown up enough with solid performance to make a difference or stand out. He certainly looks the part but his play, so far, just hasn’t produced that much. Maybe the FA addition and possible draftees will light a fire under him.

  3. First you have to let him play other than just 3rd down,Give him half of the time you give Randy Gregory then judge his play Damn..,

  4. Armstrong is more established than Wilson. Like him or not, we know what he is and therefore, he’s established. Wilson is still an unknown.

    For what it’s worth, and to all the star-mavens, Armstrong has managed to keep making the roster and seeing game snaps ahead of players like Anae, Carter, etc. He’s doing something decent enough to have had 2 defensive staffs keep him around.

  5. Since the front four usually can’t stop anything, Dallas is handicapped like a headless horseman because the linebackers really suck. That’s why you continually see 15 to 30 yard ground gains. Vander Each is always hurt. Smith cannot run laterally and every team knows it. Smith cannot read offenses without VE’s help. This is the worst linebacker corps I have ever seen in Dallas. All the good ones leave for bigger money but Jones keeps awarding the worst players with large cash like DLaw and Mr Ohio State. Let’s face it, the defense sucks.

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