#90 DeMarcus Lawrence
DeMarcus Lawrence a.k.a. “Tank” was born in Aiken, South Carolina on April 28, 1992. Lawrence is a defensive end in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys, who drafted him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He played college football at Butler Community College before transferring to Boise State.
DeMarcus Lawrence attended Silver Bluff High School in South Carolina, a perennial small school powerhouse. Under head coach Al Lown, the Silver Bluff Bulldogs have won more than 200 games and five state titles.
Coach Lown played the relatively small DeMarcus Lawrence at tight end his first few seasons in high school. Thanks to a growth spurt in 10th grade, the 6’2” 210 pound Lawrence finally found his calling on the defensive side of the ball at defensive end and defensive tackle. Lawrence recorded 97 tackles and three sacks as a defensive tackle his senior year.
Lawrence wasn’t considered a top level recruit during his time at Silver Bluff. He did however help lead his team to a 9-3 record his senior season and was the Class AA All-Region choice.
Unfortunately, he didn’t receive a whole lot of interest from major colleges and it wasn’t just because of his size either. DeMarcus Lawrence struggled in the classroom because he didn’t take his schooling seriously. It ended up affecting the interest he received from collegiate programs.
DeMarcus Lawrence also excelled in baseball and basketball. During his final campaign of his high school career he helped to lead the Bulldogs basketball team to a 17-5 record.
DeMarcus Lawrence didn’t receive any scholarship offers to play football collegiately, but he continued his gridiron career at Butler Community College in Kansas.
DeMarcus Lawrence started off his collegiate career at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas. Lawrence played two years at Butler before ultimately deciding to transfer to Boise State.
In 2010, he enjoyed a red-shirt season. The following season in 2011, he earned the first team J.C. Gridwire and second-team NJCAA All-American honors. The team won the Jayhawk Conference and Region IV Championships, finishing the year ranked second in the national poll. DeMarcus Lawrence was also named to the first-team All-Jayhawk Conference with 72 tackles (50 solos), the second most on the team. He also registered 12 sacks and recovered four fumbles, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Lawrence was ranked 38th on the Rivals.com JUCO Top 50 list and after his 2011 season, he signed with Boise State in December.
Lawrence started 11 games at weak-side defensive end during his first year at Boise State in 2012. He recorded 48 tackles (24 solos), led the team and league with 9 ½ quarterback sacks, forced four fumbles that tied for eighth nationally, recovered two fumbles, and had one interception. DeMarcus Lawrence also recorded the only blocked kick for Boise State. His first year performance for the Broncos earned him All-Mountain West Conference first-team honors.
DeMarcus Lawrence started 12 games at weak-side defensive end in 2013 and finished third on the team with 72 tackles (39 solos). Lawrence ranked 10th in the nation with 10 ½ quarterback sacks and ranked third in the nation with 20 ½ stops or losses, leading the MWC. After blocking one kick the previous season in 2012, Lawrence followed that up with two blocked field goals in one game against Southern Mississippi. Based on his 2013 performance, he earned All-American second-team honors from Walter Camp and for the second consecutive season, he garnered the All-Mountain West Conference first-team accolades.
For his entire collegiate career, DeMarcus Lawrence started all 34 games he appeared in, recorded 192 tackles (113 solos), 32 quarterback sacks, 53 stops for losses, six fumble recoveries, eight forced fumbles, four pass deflections, and one interception.
Lawrence decided to skip his final year of eligibility and entered the 2014 NFL Draft, and was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round.
2014 NFL Draft
The Dallas Cowboys absolutely had to address the defensive line in the 2014 NFL Draft after waving franchise sack leader, DeMarcus Ware, and losing starters Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher to free agency.
The Cowboys decided to address the defensive line in the second round when they made a trade with division rival Washington for their 34th draft pick. For the 34th pick, the Washington Redskins received the Cowboys 47th overall pick in the second round (Trent Murphy) and the 78th pick in the third round (Spencer Long).
With the completion of the trade, the Dallas Cowboys decided to draft the Boise State Broncos defensive end, DeMarcus Lawrence.
The Cowboys viewed Lawrence as the best remaining defensive end in the 2014 NFL Draft and a player that could play as the LEO (left end) or the right defensive end in the Cowboys’ 4-3 scheme.
DeMarcus Lawrence’s professional career didn’t get off to a very good start in 2014. The rookie defensive end fractured his right foot in training camp and had to start the year on injured reserve.
Lawrence’s first appearance on the field as the right defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys was in week 9 against the Arizona Cardinals. Unfortunately, the lost time affected his performance on the field and he finished the regular season with just 11 tackles and zero sacks.
Lawrence did play a significant role in the wild-card playoff game against the Detroit Lions on January 4, 2015.
DeMarcus Lawrence nearly made the play that would have ended the game with the Cowboys leading 24-20, with just about two minutes remaining in the game. Matthew Stafford fumbled deep in Detroit’s territory, but instead of just falling on the ball, DeMarcus Lawrence decided to scoop the ball up and try to score. Unfortunately, Lawrence fumbled and Detroit recovered the ball.
Lawrence would however redeem himself on the ensuing drive. Detroit was facing a 4th and 3, with a minute left in the game. The Lions were nearly in field-goal range, but DeMarcus sacked quarterback Matthew Stafford causing a fumble. Lawrence wisely fell on the football this time and didn’t try to advance it, thus sealing the game for the Dallas Cowboys.
In preparation for the 2015 season, DeMarcus Lawrence transformed his body with the help of the Cowboys’ strength and conditioning program, in hopes of being better prepared for the season.
With the addition of Greg Hardy, DeMarcus Lawrence was moved to left defensive end and would end up having a bigger impact than he did as a rookie. His improved physical presence and pass rushing skills continued to develop on a weekly basis. He had a streak of at least one sack in each of the last seven games, and finished the season with a total of eight. He also finished second on the team with 31 quarterback pressures and 56 tackles.
In January 2016, DeMarcus Lawrence had back surgery that ended up being more serious than expected. DeMarcus Lawrence was penalized the first four games of 2016 due to violating the league’s substance abuse policies.
The total value of DeMarcus Lawrence’s rookie contract is $5,506,648 and is fully guaranteed to make $3,895,138 of that. DeMarcus Lawrence will make an average of $1,376,662 per season over the entirety of his four-year rookie contract.
He is entering the third year of this contract and will make $920,604 and have a cap number of $1,501,813 in 2016. In 2017, Lawrence will make $1,170,906 and will have a cap number of $1,752,115.
He hasn’t really done much to warrant a second contract from the Dallas Cowboys, but if he can keep his nose clean and continue to progress, he could become a fixture on defense for years to come.
LB Justin Phillips Making a Case to Become a Roster Lock With Cowboys
In Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys arguably have the best linebacker duo in the entire NFL. They also have some pretty solid backups in Sean Lee and Joe Thomas, but the depth behind those four is completely up in the air. That is excellent news for an undrafted LB like Justin Phillips.
The former Oklahoma State Cowboy LB signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent after the completion of the 2019 NFL Draft. To go from being an Oklahoma State Cowboy to a Dallas Cowboy must've been a dream come true, especially for a kid from Pearland, Texas who rooted for America's Team growing up. The dream probably won't be complete though unless a roster spot comes with it.
Surprisingly, Justin Phillips has put himself into contention to earn one of those coveted roster spots. The way he has played in the first two preseason games has caught the attention of quite a few people, which should make it extremely difficult for the Cowboys coaching staff when it comes to making roster cut decisions. Dallas Cowboys Staff Writer and former Scout Bryan Broaddus agrees…
"Justin Phillips is going to make it hard on this staff to put him on the street. Not only is his finish impressive, but the awareness he plays with in pass coverage is impressive. There is no way I thought he had a chance for that interception, especially with this initial step into the line, but his ability to turn and run to a spot saved him."
Here is the play/interception Broaddus is referring to:
The Dallas Cowboys have typically only carried six linebackers on their 53-man roster these past few years. With four spots already spoken for, Justin Phillips is doing his damnedest to lock down one of those final two up for grabs. That, of course, is easier said than done.
Phillips is likely competing with Justin March-Lillard, who led the team in tackles against the Los Angeles Rams last week and fellow undrafted rookie LB Luke Gifford. Gifford, of course, missed the game against the Rams with an ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 of the preseason against the 49ers. It was actually that injury that resulted in more playing time for Justin Phillips.
If you're doing the math here, that's three linebackers competing for two roster spots. March-Lillard probably has the upper hand right now over the two rookies, but I wouldn't say he's secured a job just yet. That leaves the door open for No. 44 (Phillips) and No. 57 (Gifford).
As much as I like Luke Gifford, and I do, I think the stars could be aligning for Justin Phillips to make it through roster cuts. He's playing really well right now, while all Gifford can do is watch from the sideline until he can get back on the field. Regardless though, it's a position battle worth keeping an eye on.
Do you think LB Justin Phillips has done enough to secure a roster spot?
How Kris Richard May Help CB Michael Jackson Make Cowboys Roster
Cornerback Michael Jackson, one of the Dallas Cowboys' 5th-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, has not been standing out so far in training camp or preseason. But despite the slow start, the influence of Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard could help keep Jackson on the 53-man roster this year.
While no team likes parting with their drafted rookies, it certainly happens. That's especially true for Day 3 players, even 5th rounders, and particularly when a team is as deep with talent right now as the 2019 Cowboys.
The cornerback position is one of Dallas' most loaded. They go four-deep with starting talent in Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis, which leaves just one or two roster spots for the remaining prospects.
Michael Jackson is in competition with veteran C.J. Goodwin and the intriguing Donovan Olumba. Both were with the team last year; Goodwin was a special teams contributor and Olumba was a valuable developmental asset on the practice squad.
So far this preseason, we've seen Goodwin shining on special teams and Olumba making plays at cornerback. Jackson hasn't stood out, unless you count jokes about thin he looks on the field.
In contrast, fellow 5th-round rookie Joe Jackson has been showing up at defensive end. Even if there were no suspension concerns with Robert Quinn and Randy Gregory, Joe Jackson has made himself very difficult to cut.
But despite not having that same momentum or energy around him yet, Michael Jackson may still find his way onto the 53-man roster. And that may have something to do with his position coach.
Since arriving in Dallas during the 2018 offseason, Kris Richard has quickly gained prominence beyond just his official role as the Defensive Backs Coach. He was working as the defensive play-caller last year and is expected to take over fully in 2020, assuming Rod Marinelli retires and Richard doesn't leave for a head coaching opportunity.
When Dallas selected Michael Jackson in the last draft, Jackson became the first cornerback or safety drafted by the Cowboys since Richard arrived. Given that it happened this year, with Richard's influence clearly high on the defense, one would assume that Kris had a big say in the decision to draft Jackson.
No, Richard certainly can't veto any decision made by the Joneses, Will McClay, Jason Garrett, or even Marinelli when it comes to roster management. But if he has any bias towards Jackson as his first draft pick in Dallas, Kris may fight for the rookie more than someone else.
We're all human; agendas come into play. Kris Richard may be more passionate about seeing Michael Jackson succeeding for a variety of reasons. He may pound the table for the team to keep Jackson louder than anyone else in the room.
That doesn't necessarily mean keeping Jackson over some other cornerback, either. The argument could be to go long at CB at the expense of another position; maybe only keeing two quarterbacks or eight offensive linemen to free up a roster spot.
This is purely speculative, of course. For all we know, Richard could be the first one who loses faith and votes to let Jackson go.
But given the situation and all factors involved, it's more likely that Kris Richard will be invested in seeing Michael Jackson succeed and sticking with the Cowboys in 2019. Hopefully, it's in the best interest of the team overall.
DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win
Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.
Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.
As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.
Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.
Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.
A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.
Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.
"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli
Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.
Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.
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