Since the 2015 season ended, Cowboys VP Stephen Jones had repeatedly said that the Cowboys top priority was to improve the defensive front and ultimately the pass rush. The Cowboys finished 2015 season with 31 sacks which ranked 25th in the league. The Cowboys defense also gave up 120.9 yards/game on the ground, which ranked 22nd in the league.
“At the end of the day, our defensive front is still a position that we keep our eye on in terms of always trying to get better there,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in the weeks leading up to the draft.
In February, news broke that Randy Gregory had failed a fourth drug test since being drafted with the Cowboys second round pick (60th overall). Failing a drug test for a fourth time results in an automatic four game suspension. Then a few weeks before the draft we found out that DeMarcus Lawrence was facing a 4 game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.Boom. Two back to back second round picks likely suspended for the first four games of the 2016 seasons.
Going into free agency the Cowboys looked to fortify the middle of their defense. Instead of giving out massive contracts to defensive ends Olivier Vernon(NYG) & Mario Williams(MIA), the Cowboys decided to go the interior route. With Terrell McClain unable to stay healthy the last few seasons as the Cowboys 1-tech, they signed defensive tackle Cedric Thornton away from Philadelphia (4 years/$18M) to help stop the run . Thornton will be the Cowboys starting 1-tech lining up next to Tyrone Crawford. Crawford will be coming off of shoulder surgery after playing most of the 2015 season with a torn rotator cuff. The Cowboys also resigned defensive end Jack Crawford, who can slide inside at the 3-tech to provide an inside pass rush.
On Saturday, the Cowboys added defensive tackle Maliek Collins with their third round pick (67th overall). A 311 pound 3-tech who can provide help in stopping the run and rushing the passer up the middle. Here’s a look at what Collins can provide for you inside:
— CowboysTalkLine (@CowboysTalkLine) April 30, 2016
It seems as if the Cowboys have built the interior of their defense this offseason to keep the pressure off the defensive ends. Well they’re going to need it, especially when they won’t have Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence(barring an appeal win) for the first quarter of the season. The Cowboys did get help at the defensive end position by trading for Benson Mayowa and drafting Charles Tapper (Oklahoma). 2015 5th round pick Ryan Russell should provide some help as well. The defensive end position in Dallas might not look as good as it did last season(on paper) but the interior looks to be the best it’s ever been under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
“There’s a precedent for it.” I’m Jarren Glover, tweet me @JarrenGlover & @CowboysTalkLine