Cowboys find elusive pass rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence

Former Cowboys scout Glenn "Stretch" Smith grades the Cowboys' performance in Glendale. WFAA.com

DALLAS - After beating the Arizona Cardinals 28-17, the Dallas Cowboys are now 2-1. It’s been a Jekyll and Hyde season thus far as they dominated the Giants in the season opener, only to get blown out a week later against the Broncos. Then, on Monday night, they demonstrated both styles playing great at times, and not-so-great at others.

But there has been one constant in all of this – DeMarcus Lawrence.

The Cowboys have been searching for a formidable pass rusher ever since the departure of DeMarcus Ware. They’ve rolled the dice on a couple of character risk players like Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory, but both of those decisions have crapped out.

And this year, the Cowboys finally invested a first round draft pick on a defensive end when they selected Taco Charlton. That’s the highest draft resource they have used on a defensive end since a decade ago when the selected Anthony Spencer with the 26th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

While it might not be the player people were expecting, the Cowboys might have actually found the elite edge rusher they’ve been looking for. Fourth-year player, DeMarcus Lawrence is off to a smoking hot start.

Lawrence’s tour in Dallas has been a bit of a roller coaster. The Cowboys traded away their third-round pick to move up in the second round to acquire him with the 34th overall pick in 2014. Right away, big expectations were placed on him.

He fractured his foot in training camp and missed the first half of the season. Lawrence started improving as the season progressed and even had a sack in each of the Cowboys playoff games that season. Fans were intrigued by his potential.

In 2015, it was more of the same. He was virtually invisible the first half, but turned it on strong in the second half, including a seven-game stretch where he had seven sacks. But last season was a big disappointment. After missing the first four games serving a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, he struggled throughout the year as he dealt with a shoulder injury and a lingering back issue.

Lawrence is healthy now and it shows. After a three-sack game against the Cardinals, he leads the NFL with 6.5 sacks on the year. And honestly, it feels like it should be more than that as he was just living in the Arizona backfield on Monday night.

He had six quarterback pressures, he was stuffing runs, and he even had one sack taken away due to a penalty. He also came close to picking off a pass that bounced off a running back from a hurried throw that he caused. He’s doing it all.

Lawrence is exploding off the edge and getting around tackles like they are slopping around in wet cement. He’s bull-rushing his blockers and shoving them straight back into the quarterback’s face. Lawrence’s determination and unrelenting drive to get to the quarterback has caused him to be a dominant force for the Cowboys defense.

So why the sudden emergence of Lawrence? Well, there are a lot of things going his way. First and foremost – he’s healthy. He’s back on the left side where he did all his damage in 2015 when he had his career high of eight sacks. But another factor that helps a lot is the push generated from the middle of the Cowboys interior line.

In particular, second-year player, Maliek Collins is having a great season too. He had a two-sack night against the Cardinals and already has three on the season. Collins and Lawrence work extremely well together.

Is it possible that Lawrence is the Cowboys star edge rusher they’ve been looking for? Things are only going to get easier for him when David Irving returns in Week 5 so don’t expect this Cowboys pass rush to start slipping.

Obviously, Lawrence won’t continue to register sacks at this rate, but he could be in for a big year if he keeps playing at a high level. And it couldn’t come at a better time as he will enter free agency after this season. Should the Cowboys pony-up some cash and offer him an extension before he becomes too expensive?

 

What do you think of DeMarcus Lawrence’s performance so far? Could he be their pass rusher of the future? Share your answer with Dan on Twitter @DannyPhantom24.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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