Early offseason practices in the NFL are about preparing a 90-man roster for the rigor of padded training camps and a preseason that depletes each roster to just 53 men. Understanding where a team's strengths and weaknesses are with OTAs underway is vital to completing the roster. For the Dallas Cowboys, their defensive line projects to be one of Rod Marinelli's deepest and most talented groups yet, but even the Cowboys defensive coordinator is realizing this without starting DT David Irving right now.
Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli on David Irving: “Not in shape. … He's been in and out [of the offseason conditioning program].”
Is that disappointing? “No. The guys here I'm excited about.”
David Irving's flashes of raw talent with the Cowboys have been more than enough to convince some fans that it's actually the team's fault for seemingly holding Irving back. With this latest development, it appears that the Cowboys have done everything they could to protect Irving – who's rewarded them with 11.5 sacks in 35 games.
Absent from the Cowboys workouts so far, Irving is reportedly out of football shape. According to Head Coach Jason Garrett, Irving is “getting into shape”. Whatever that means. Something about accountability goes here.
Making a name for himself in Dallas ever since being picked up by the Cowboys off the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad, Irving has been in the news for plenty of wrong reasons before too. Remaining with the Cowboys after signing a second-round tender for 2018, the Cowboys have leverage against a projected starter at DT.
Any other team could have picked up Irving at the price of their second round pick, choosing instead to see this offseason's domestic violence charges and now a lack of practice participation reflect directly back on the Dallas Cowboys.
A Cowboys team that has even more questions to answer on the depth chart at defensive tackle. As it stands now, Maliek Collins will come off of a second broken foot in three seasons to start at one of the two DT spots for Dallas. The talented but perhaps misused interior rusher will be joined by the likes of Brian Price, Lewis Neal (who was preparing to spend the offseason learning the fullback position as of a few weeks ago), and Jihad Ward.
When the Cowboys traded for Ward during the 2018 NFL Draft, it is hard to believe they imagined needing him to step into such a large role right away. To David Irving's defense, the 6'7″ nightmare for offensive linemen has a long time to work his way back onto the field and dominate in ways that few at the position can.
Irving should have no problem standing out over the field of DTs the Cowboys are currently fielding, undervaluing the position in recent memory. Rod Marinelli may very well have reason to be excited about the guys he has worked with so far, left with no choice but to apply his hard-and-fast coaching style to any defensive linemen fortunate enough to learn under him.
The alarming amount of players doing so right now that the Cowboys will have to consider for spots on the roster thanks to David Irving's continuous unreliability is concerning to say the least.
Also working through their numbers at linebacker to evaluate how first round pick Leighton Vander Esch will be utilized, the new-look Cowboys defense feels uncertain up the middle. Again, it is the end of May and games are not won and lost because of this just yet.
Insert David Irving at the 3T position and suddenly the entire Dallas defense is elevated because of it. Particularly franchise-tagged Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who makes Irving's current status all the more frustrating – benefiting the most from playing alongside a disruptive DT and entering yet another contract season.
As the summer heat beckons the return of another NFL season, the Cowboys are going to have plenty of difficult roster decisions to make before ever reaching a meaningful game. Falling behind this early in the offseason program after three years with the Cowboys is inexcusable for David Irving.