Ever since the first day of the 2015 off season, Dallas Cowboys fans everywhere have been calling for this team to address the defensive end position. The pass rush was severely lacking, Greg Hardy was gone, and nobody in the front office seemed to care that one of our Staff Writers was dangerously close to appearing on the depth chart at DE by the time the preseason rolled around.
Suddenly, Benson Mayowa was here to save the day. A restricted free agent, the Oakland Raiders did not match the Cowboys three-year deal offered to the young edge rusher, sending him off to Dallas to work with defensive-line guru Rod Marinelli.
After dealing with injuries through the preseason, Mayowa started and saw 45 defensive snaps against the New York Giants in week 1 - getting off to a good start by sacking
the most incompetent quarterback in the division not named Kirk Cousins Eli Manning once.
However, since then, Mayowa has failed to record a sack, seeing a drop in his playing time with just 35 and 28 snaps respectively against the Redskins and Bears. This dip in playing time is concerning for a number of reasons, mainly because Mayowa is just a few weeks in to a three-year deal with the team. While the signing might have been sparked by the large need that the team had at his position, the Cowboys clearly saw some long-term potential in Mayowa (he did have flashes in Oakland) that he has yet to display.
His failure to make a larger impact is also concerning because of the players behind him taking his snaps at RDE, mainly Jack Crawford, who hasn't fared much better playing well out of position as a weak side edge rusher.
I watched Benson Mayowa's tape against Ereck Flowers of the Giants - a struggling second-year left tackle - and Trent Williams, who is one of the best in the business for the Washington Redskins.
Its time for some "Reel Talk" on what I saw:
All Some Trades, Master of None
In starting with Mayowa's performance against the Redskins, it was clear why this team simply needed to take him off the field at times. While nobody not named DeMarcus Lawrence may have been able to generate pressure off the right side in this game, Mayowa was a liability in the running game.
On Matt Jones' touchdown run, Mayowa completely conceded the edge by getting off the ball unbalanced and falling to his knees. Sean Lee and Barry Church were unable to ever recover from Jones receiving a clear lane to the outside, as he stretched the play to the pylon for a score.
As a pass rusher, Mayowa also had issues with his balance, especially when trying to get wide around the edge and finish. This is a player that is forced to resort to getting wide and trying to use his strong legs to capture the edge, because he simply looks lost trying to set up blockers with any rush moves.
While Mayowa will turn in some positive plays thanks to his legs and power, he is just not strong enough or quick enough laterally to consistently make any impact.
Instead, Mayowa needs to focus on his bend as a RDE, as he was caught too many times bending into a good position before coming back upright and allowing his blocker to sit on him and disrupt the angle towards the quarterback. To me, this is Mayowa's most workable trait, but it is only going to be more difficult to refine considering how predictable of a player he is.
Mayowa will get his hands inside on blockers and show the ability to steer them and eventually rip his hands through to disengage, but #93's lack of knock back on first contact makes it hard for him to get home in time.
As you'll see in these pictures, even his sack against the New York Giants was a result of Eli Manning being forced to hold onto the ball and then slide in Mayowa's direction, after he did a nice job beating Flowers for the edge.
Right here, you would love to be able to see Mayowa set up his blocker with another move and use his long arms to get to Manning.
Instead, you see him get lucky to be put in a position to finish off this play, after essentially losing contain. When Manning slides to his left, Flowers could not contain the quick reaction from Mayowa, as he eventually freed himself for the hit from behind.
A Positive Outlook
All is not lost through three games for Benson Mayowa. As we know, Dallas' defense is built around throwing different looks at opposing offenses at the defensive end spot, relying on waves of pass rushers to get the job done.
The team's best pass rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence, will be back after this Sunday's game against the 49ers, which will help the entirety of the line.
Some are speculating that Lawrence will be called upon to kick over to the right side of the line, where he played his injury-shortened 2014 rookie season. If this is the case, Mayowa could find himself in a much more rotational role, where he can be much more effective.
Also factoring into the team's plans for the following two years under contract, Mayowa has a chance to be here as the Cowboys hopefully put some serious work into revamping the depth chart at defensive end entirely.
If this turns out to be the case, Mayowa can absolutely shine as a situational pass rusher, coming in with fresh legs to pressure quarterbacks with his speed.
The Dallas Cowboys are in San Francisco on Sunday with a chance to get to 3-1 on the season - an absolutely huge opportunity for a team that has help on the way at numerous positions.
One of those positions is at defensive end, where they must first rely on guys like Benson Mayowa to get the job done this week. We'll keep an eye on how much Mayowa gets onto the field against Chip Kelly and the 49ers' up tempo offense, and how much of an impact he can make when he lines up.
What are you hoping to see from Mayowa as the season goes on? Comment below to share your thoughts, or email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp
The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.
From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.
Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.
Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.
They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.
Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?
The Dallas Cowboys aren't short on numbers at wide receiver on their current 90-man roster. Looking to replace Dez Bryant and reshape their offense, the Cowboys will have to find the right group of pass catchers for Dak Prescott at their upcoming training camp.
The odd men out from this group will likely be the ones that can't sustain a consistent level of play, doing so across multiple units if needed. All ten receivers will have their flashes, but with only four being true locks to make the team, new Cowboys Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal will be in on some tough decisions right away.
One such decision may be moving on from last year's seventh round pick Noah Brown out of Ohio State. Vouched for by former Buckeyes teammate Ezekiel Elliott thanks to his blocking ability on the outside, it may now be this strength in the run game and deficiency as a pass catcher that spells the end of Brown's run in Dallas.
Normally, a seventh round pick being on the roster bubble wouldn't be this noteworthy, but Brown clearly showed the potential to outplay this draft status as a rookie. Appearing in 13 games, Brown is a true X receiver, although not the dominant one the Cowboys are searching for.
Moving away from fielding a true number one receiver, the Cowboys did sign Allen Hurns to play this spot while prepared to spread the ball around to Williams, Beasley, and Gallup after that.
This leaves Thompson, Wilson, Cannon, Lenoir, McCay, Murdock, and Brown to prove their worth in other ways to make the roster. I've written plenty about the potential rookie Cedrick Wilson has, so I'll be expecting a strong showing from him to earn a role in the Cowboys offense.
Wilson's skill set could push a depth signing like Deonte Thompson off the team, although his ability to back up Cole Beasley/Tavon Austin on special teams is important. The same can be said about Lance Lenoir, who like Brown has the advantage over first year players given his trials through training camp and the preseason a year ago.
Long shots to make the team, Cannon, McCay, and Murdock fall just below this group -- and somewhere in the middle is Noah Brown.
Increasing his role on special teams as the season went on last year, Brown had fans throughout a coaching staff that is now drastically changed for 2018. From their shift to more speed on offense, to drafting of both Gallup and Wilson, calling Brown a fringe player on the Cowboys roster really sets up the fiery competition to come at wide receiver.
Should the Cowboys find a spot for Brown, one can only hope it means this new coaching staff has a clear plan for him to contribute on both offense and special teams outside of being a run blocker. A potential niche for Brown is his red zone ability, not afraid to put his body on the line for jump balls and fight through contact in his routes.
It won't be long until we sort out if this is enough to make the Cowboys as a wide receiver ahead of Quarterback Dak Prescott's third season.
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