Offseason Speculation: Questions Around Defensive Line
Offseason Speculation will be an ongoing series where I will investigate the question marks surrounding the Dallas Cowboys heading into Training Camp. The series will attempt to answer questions and shed light how the roster could play out, division battles, and potential additions the team could make before the first game of Regular Season play.
Suspensions Playing A Role
Defensive End Randy Gregory has already been saddled with a 4 game suspension, while it is wildly expected that the other projected Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence will also be hit with the same suspension. While neither will count against the 53 man roster come the onset of Regular Season play, their suspensions will effect how the Defensive Line looks and possibly the type of production to be expected.
As we stand today 2016 4th round draft pick Charles Tapper could play his way into a starting role at one of the end positions. Recent addition Benson Mayowa, David Irving, and Jack Crawford could all make a play to start on the outside as well during the duration of the suspensions (Lawrence is expected to appeal his when it is officially announced). 2015 5th Round selection Ryan Russell is battling for a spot on this team, it would be incredibly shocking to see him crack the starting lineup.
Will The Pass Rush Improve
That is the million dollar question. Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli (Defensive Line Guru), Defensive Tackles Coach Leon Lett, and Defensive Ends Coach Ben Bloom will do
everything possible to improve upon the 31 Sacks from last year. More importantly, Marinelli wants his Defensive Line to have consistent pressure on opposing Quarterbacks causing him to move off his spot – keeping him from sustaining rhythm throughout the game.
While Sacks are sexy – Pressures and Hits are the real measure of the quality of pass rush a team is able to generate. A huge question surrounds not so much the health of Tyrone Crawford (currently recovering from shoulder surgery), but where he will start opening week. He’s proven that he is a disruptive Defensive Tackle, yet the depth at Defensive End may cause Cowboys Coaches to ask Tyrone to effectively play out of position as he’s a far more effective 3 Technique than 7 Technique.
The key to the Defensive Line early may rest on how quickly this years two draft picks along the Defensive Line progress through Training Camp. Malik Collins is a 3 Technique Defensive Tackle that was selected in the 3rd Round of this years draft. If he is able earn a rotational position (assuming Tyrone Crawford remains at 3 Technique) and Charles Tapper is able to win a starting position, that allows players like Jack Crawford to play fresh when he can cause havoc from numerous positions along the Defensive Line (Jack Crawford had 4 sacks last year).
There are still a number of questions that need answering as the only certainty seems to be that Cedric Thorton will most definitely start at 1 Technique if he is healthy going into the season. If he is able to generate more pressure than Nick Hayden (who started at the position the past few seasons) than he will be a most welcomed addition.