Here we sit, in the beginning of June, with the Dallas Cowboys opening up OTA’s to the public and there’s a sense of excitement. It’s the first sighting of Jaylon Smith on the field with the team. By all accounts, Smith looked fine, but there’s a long way to go before actual practice and games where the hits are real.
What we do know is that the hype is real. However, while Smith might be one of the biggest stories heading into late July, there are other things that have gone unnoticed. Something that I recognized while looking over the Cowboys the other day, had nothing to do with one player, but more about a group of players.
Dallas’ defensive line could field one of the youngest groups in the league. And there’s talent there too!
Maliek Collins just turned 22 and he had a very nice rookie season. There should be a significant jump coming with his this season (expect that article this summer). In fact, Collins is younger than the team’s first-round pick, Taco Charlton, who is the same age right now, but will turn 23-years old in November.
David Irving is currently just 23 years of age and will turn 24 in training camp. He might have the most potential out of the group and looks like he is just starting to figure it out. If he continues to progress, the Cowboys could have a ‘war daddy’ in his prime.
Charles Tapper turned 24-years old last month and there are high hopes for him. He certainly has the motor to excel with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli pushing his buttons and the team had to slow him down in OTA’s.
Damontre Moore is also only 24-years old. He does bring some baggage with him, but there is considerable potential as well. He’s a former third-round pick who does have 10 sacks on his career and this is likely his last shot to straighten out his football life. He’ll turn 25 in September and Moore is still young enough to make his best case this season.
Next in line is DeMarcus Lawrence, who turned 25 in April. Lawrence is due to hit free agency and his chance at a payday is coming, so the Cowboys hope to see shades of the man who put up good numbers at the end of his second season. He should be hitting his prime right now and the time is now for Lawrence to cash in on his talent.
Then there is last year’s sack leader, Benson Mayowa, who will be 26-years old in August. The Cowboys got six sacks from Mayowa last season and hope that his arrow continues to point upward in a pass rushing role.
That’s seven players, six if you don’t believe in Moore, that will be 26 or younger, who will have a major role on the defensive line. That is a lot of youth, athleticism and potential for guys who are coming into, or are already in their prime. And that doesn’t even include rookies who we don’t know much about yet, like Joey Ivie or Jordan Carrell.
There are also some veterans who won’t touch the wrong side of the football hill (30) as well. Tyrone Crawford is 27-years old (28 in November), Cedric Thornton is about to be 29, and Stephen Paea will be 29 for the entire season. Even though they are the old veterans of the group, they each still have plenty of football left in them.
It’s a great group of young defensive linemen, who could blossom into a monster group. The Dallas Cowboys might be short on stars, for now, in the trenches, but there’s something to be said for having this type of youth.
You can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi