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What’s Next for Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence in 2018?

Sean Martin

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Cowboys en Español: El Futuro de David Irving y DeMarcus Lawrence
(Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

DeMarcus Lawrence was among the leagues best pass rushers a season ago for the Dallas Cowboys, producing 14.5 sacks to finish third in the league to Chandler Jones and Calais Campbell. With Campbell's career output coming in his tenth season and Jones leading the league in sacks as a six-year veteran, Lawrence's outburst in the final year of his rookie contract provides plenty of optimism for his future in Dallas -- despite it being long-awaited from the Cowboys.

Lawrence will play under the franchise tag in 2018. The Cowboys are optimistic that a long-term deal will get done with their top pass rusher, but are more so asking Lawrence to prove that last season was no oddity before backing up the Brinks truck.

Feeling that he can only earn more money with a continued effort to put injuries behind him and live up to his draft status as the 34th overall pick, Lawrence can become the first Cowboys defender since 2010-11 to record double-digit sacks in consecutive seasons.

Of course, this sampling of future Hall of Fame Defensive End DeMarcus Ware's career with the Cowboys is nothing too out of the ordinary. His rookie year being the only exception, Ware had at least 10 sacks every year in Dallas from 2006-2012. Ware lost this streak in 2013 in just 13 games for the Cowboys, signing with the Denver Broncos next season.

Just how well the Cowboys are going to handle high expectations with a very young roster seems to be this season's most pressing question. The answer is both simple and helplessly complex. The Cowboys will be relying on any proven players to continue in their progression, most of which working with new position coaches.

DeMarcus Lawrence has to top this list for the Cowboys, as the rest of their talented defensive line will only fall into place should Lawrence be a consistent force from the strong side.

A complete player in 2017, Lawrence was a stunningly efficient pass rusher with elite technique to beat opposing right tackles with ease and get to the quarterback. These massive strides for a healthy Tank Lawrence are the biggest reason Rod Marinelli and the Cowboys can expect to field a stout defense in support of a patented ball control offense.

Covering the changes the Cowboys have made on offense is well beyond the scope of this article, but not lost to Lawrence and his camp seeking a new contract are the corresponding changes around Lawrence at both defensive tackle and end.

What's Next for Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence in 2018?

Lawrence himself spoke to the importance of the Cowboys 3T-DT position last season, a starting spot that belonged to Maliek Collins at the time. Seemingly long gone are these days though, as Collins finished the season as the Cowboys one technique and opened the door for David Irving to start alongside Lawrence.

With the Cowboys now preparing for Oxnard, they'll be without Collins in any capacity for a while, as he deals with a second broken foot in three years. Irving is also starting 2018 with another four game suspension, turning the Cowboys depth at DT from a strength to an overall team weakness.

This cannot be an excuse for DeMarcus Lawrence, nor would he want it to be. There's a reason the Cowboys have been noncommittal to Irving (with Collins still on his rookie contract), while already laying the groundwork for Lawrence to earn a lucrative deal next summer -- at the latest.

As mentioned, the Cowboys sweeping changes across their coaching staff has already had a positive impact on the growth of several key players. With Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli specializing in DL play however, this is a group that remains unchanged from a coaching perspective.

Marinelli's patented rotation with his front four has all the numbers it needs to deploy one of the best units the Cowboys have fielded in years. One player that shouldn't be coming off the field much is DeMarcus Lawrence.

Whether or not this is a sack artist just getting started in the silver and blue or one that will reach his peak at an inopportune time is a defining question for the Cowboys in 2018. Missing the playoffs at 9-7 to effectively "waste" Lawrence's dominant 2017 stretch could be all the fuel Tank needs to push on into another contract year, or yet another example of the Cowboys never quite putting it all together.

There were just three edge rushers drafted before DeMarcus Lawrence in 2014. Only fifth overall pick Khalil Mack has put up a better season that Lawrence's 2017, following up 15 sacks in 2015 with 11 the following year and 10.5 last season.

The Cowboys drafting well is nothing new, and all indications is that they're patience with Lawrence is about to be an example of this for year's to come.

Tell us what you think about "What’s Next for Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence in 2018?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Next Day Rant: Cowboys Drafting LB Vander Esch Looks Pretty Smart Now

Dallas Cowboys' rookie Leighton Vander Esch has done enough to prove every single doubter wrong. When Roger Goodell called his name during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, many in Cowboys Nation rejoiced at the thought of having a young linebacker for a defense surrounded with uncertainty. However, many analysts doubted the draft pick. For a lot of people (sadly, I include myself in this category), the pick should've been used on another player. For most, despite acknowledging his raw talent, Vander Esch wouldn't be able to provide the Cowboys with an instant impact player. Ah, well.

After a remarkable season, Vander Esch (a.k.a. Wolf Hunter) has earned a spot on this season's second-team All-Pro. When the Pro Bowl voting began, Vander Esch was snubbed from the ballot itself. It didn't took the NFL long to realize their mistake and add the Cowboys' linebacker to the list. Despite missing the cut at first, Vander Esch will be heading to Orlando to play in this year's Pro Bowl on January 27th.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

DallasCowboys linebacker @VanderEsch38 has been added to the 2019 Pro Bowl Roster. 🐺 Congratulations, rookie! → https://t.co/AYqEUy2tZx

The former Boise State Bronco will be replacing Carolina Panthers' LB Luke Kuechly, who won't be participating because of an injury.

Vander Esch racked up 140 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), ranking third in the league in this category. He finished the season as the fifth best linebacker in Pro Football Focus' rankings.

But numbers aren't really enough to fully appreciate what Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was used to seeing its defense break when veteran Sean Lee went down injured, did not only get someone to fill in for Lee. Vander Esch actually upgraded the Cowboys' defense. It didn't matter where the ball went, he was always around when opponents were tackled. His speed and chance of direction allowed him to run sideline to sideline, covering a huge portion of the field.

Along Jaylon Smith, Dallas managed to have one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.

The last time a defensive rookie from the Cowboys went to the Pro Bowl was in 1981, when Everson Walls made the team. Vander Esch is the 11th rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. This year, the rookie will be accompanied by DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.

Tell me what you think about "Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program

Jess Haynie

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Travis Frederick

Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.

After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.

Rob Phillips on Twitter

Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire

While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.

It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.

Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.

That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.

But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.

Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.



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For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way

John Williams

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Playoff Scenarios Aim Towards Seahawks vs Cowboys in Wild Card

In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.

This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.

A few Rams Passing Game Notes

  • The Los Angeles Rams were middle of the pack against the pass this season, allowing the 14th fewest passing yards in the league this season.
  • The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
  • The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
  • The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
  • They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
  • The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.

Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.

On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.

The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.

NFL Research on Twitter

Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak

No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.

The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.

The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.

This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.



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