Sacks have become a precious commodity for the Dallas Cowboys defense. After several years of poor production, things are finally looking up. The 2018 defense has a great shot of producing more total sacks than any since the days of DeMarcus Ware.
A big reason for that is DeMarcus “Tank” Lawrence, whose 14.5 sacks last season made him a breakout star and earned the franchise tag. Lawrence returns looking to prove he’s no one-year wonder, and it’s a safe bet that he will again lead the Cowboys in sacks in 2018.
But whose name will be below his when the season’s over? Who is most likely to be second in sacks this year?
In 2017 it was David Irving, who had seven sacks despite playing in only eight games due to a mix of suspension and injury. That ratio, nearly a sack-per-game, makes him the easy favorite to be second again this year.
But Irving will once again four weeks due to suspension, and his latest issues and impending free agency bring his long-term future into question. They could even make David a candidate for a trade at some point this year.
Even if he’s on the roster all year, Irving may not be in the team’s plans for next season. That could cut into how much playing time he gets, and this his opportunities for sacks.
The next best guess is Taco Charlton, who enters his second season after putting up three sacks as a rookie. Taco got off to a slow start, not getting his first QB takedown until his 8th game, but then had two more over the rest of season.
If Charlton continues to develop, he would hopefully be able to at least double that production in 2018. If DeMarcus Lawrence is demanding more attention on the other side of the line, even more opportunities could open up for Taco.
Another candidate is Tyrone Crawford. The veteran had four sacks last season and will likely benefit most from David Irving’s suspension in terms of additional playing time. Getting to play more defensive tackle on passing down, where his athleticism is more threatening, will help Crawford produce.
From there it’s a pretty open field. A guy like Maliek Collins could break out in his third year, especially if he isn’t stuck playing as the run-stuffer again. But until someone new else steps up into that role, Collins may not get to be a pass-rusher the way he was as a rookie.
And while it may be hard to have much confidence, you’d be wise not to sleep on Randy Gregory. If he reinstatement goes through as expected, Gregory has the athleticism and skill set to best compliment Lawrence on the other side of the line. If Randy can get back to that talent level that had him as a first-round prospect in 2015, he could be the secret weapon if the defense this year.
Thankfully, the days of a guy leading the team with just six or seven sacks appear to be over. With more talent on the line and in other parts of the defense, the Cowboys should put up some strong numbers in 2018.
We’re confident that DeMarcus Lawrence will lead the pack once again. Who backs him up, though, will be interesting to see develop.