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.
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.