The Dallas Cowboys “Hot Boyz” defensive line is beginning their 2018 season with high expectations, as well as a favorable match up against a depleted Carolina Panthers offensive line. Projected starter Matt Kalil is on injured reserve, lost for the season at one tackle spot while the Panthers options on the right side are also recovering from injuries.
The Cowboys have the depth up front for Rod Marinelli to make this a long game for Panthers QB Cam Newton. DeMarcus Lawrence is looking to build on a 14.5 sack output from 2017, taking the lead for a Cowboys defensive line that added plenty of reinforcements around Tank for Sunday's opener.
None of the Cowboys “new” additions on the defensive line are more talented than Randy Gregory, who will be returning from suspension to play his first regular season game since week 17 of 2016. With Marinelli hinting that the Cowboys will keep Gregory fresh in his first real game action of the season, deploying him strictly as a pass rusher, the door is open for rookie Dorance Armstrong to earn his star rather quickly on Sunday.
Rod Marinelli offers a glimpse of what to expect from Randy Gregory in his first game since 2016.
— David Helman (@davidhelman_) September 6, 2018
Aside from his stunning level of polish as a fourth round prospect that saw a serious dip in production last year at Kansas, Armstrong's versatility as a rusher could have him in for a huge day against the Panthers. The Cowboys seem to have Armstrong on the fast track to regaining his Junior season form, where he looked every bit the pliable defensive end that Dallas has used at right end this preseason.
Armstrong is physical enough at the point of attack to hold up at left end, where the Cowboys can comfortably deploy second-year DE Taco Charlton behind Lawrence. Charlton himself has shown steady progress as the Cowboys first round pick of 2017, further adding to the anticipation of what this defensive line could mean to Dallas.
Playing in support of a well-coached and talented secondary, the Cowboys defense has all the makings of an elite unit, and make no mistake that Armstrong is already a valuable part of the team's plan.
Keeping Gregory off the field on early downs while deploying Armstrong to attack the edge is as good of a plan the Cowboys have had at right defensive end in years. I don't think it will take long for Armstrong to make Cowboys Nation forget about the likes of Benson Mayowa and oh-he's-a-defensive-tackle-again Tyrone Crawford trying to pressure the quarterback previously.
It is assuredly not the ideal scenario for Panthers LT Taylor Moton to be making his first career start in. In his second season out of Western Michigan, Moton never played more than 12 snaps at tackle for the Panthers in one game as a rookie.
Cowboys fans won't have to be on the lookout for Armstrong in Bob “Mr. Cowboy” Lilly's old number of #74, as the rookie began training camp as “that defensive end with a number he can't possibly deserve with little chance to earn it”.
My only remaining question about Dorance Armstrong is, whose number will he be wearing when the 53-man roster reports to practice next week?
— David Helman (@davidhelman_) August 31, 2018
Armstrong emphatically earned his spot on this team's 53-man roster, claiming a new number in #92. I'd expect to be seeing that numeral all over the field on Sunday. While one breakout game won't earn the 116th overall pick of this year's draft the status of Bob Lilly, it will serve as a solid introduction to opposing offenses that must take notice of yet another option on defense for Dallas.
Knowing they'll have to deal with Lawrence first and foremost, the Panthers might be the only team that Dorance Armstrong is able to catch by surprise this season, which is a very good thing for a Cowboys defense that still won't be at full strength against a dangerous Carolina offense in week one.