NFL Free Agency hasn’t begun yet. Trades are in the works for some teams but not really cooking yet. The NFL Combine is around the corner but the NFL Draft is still weeks away. Yet without signing a player, making a trade or drafting more talent the Cowboys defensive line is better now than it was last season.
Health and upside are the two factors working overtime to give Dallas this effect. Let me explain Players are healthier this offseason than last leading to a more productive offseason effect. It’s not only about playing time, it’s about practice reps and players having offseason surgery miss out on a ton of practice. This bodes well for Rod Marinelli’s rushmen who as a unit are in pretty good shape at this point of the offseason. One player in particular, who missed all of last season and looks to make a big splash this year is former 2016 fourth round pick DE Charles Tapper.
Check out this blurb from his NFL.com draft profile:
“Good size and build. Has natural power at the point of attack. Shows some ability to battle and fight for his area of grass. Technique is flawed in many areas, but has some traits. If he ever learns to drop pad level, has effective bull-rush potential. May have the body type to play 3-4 defensive end or 4-3 base end. Has some straight-line speed to close out the quarterback in space. Heavy tackler who can thump runners. Showed some positive flashes late in the season of what he might become. Raw with room to develop.”
That is the Cowboys 4th round pick in a deeeeep defensive line draft who many consider a 3rd round talent and everyone is excited about what he can bring to the party. What Malik Collins did for the interior of the line Tapper can do for the edge. Health being critical, it’s not the primary reason this unit is already looking better.
Upside is an abused term but it applies here by the truckload. The Cowboys have a group of young, talented players that as a unit are “on the rise.” They are all still learning the game. Some (of course) more than others, yet still each player along the line has room to improve this offseason.
DE DeMarcus Lawrence – due to missed games (injury, suspension) Lawrence is quite young in game snaps. This is the year we are looking to see a pretty big jump in game day productivity.
DE Tyrone Crawford – a glue guy who plays inside and outside he’s overpaid to a degree but has a GREAT motor and a is a plus in the locker room. Seems rejuvenated playing from the outside edge. A full offseason at the position should result in better game day results.
DT Malik Collins – Between year one and year two the skill set jump can be pretty darn exciting. Everyone is waiting to see what the Cowboys have at the 3-tech this offseason! This guy is a beast.
DT Cedric Thornton – another glue guy, he’s now had a year under Marinelli and seemed to get it going as the season progressed. Make no mistake about it, though he and Crawford didn’t have splash stats the size and strength of these two guys on run downs made a big difference on game day. This kid is only going to get better.
DE – Benson Mayowa – Are you kidding me? It took a full season but by the end of the year this kid was bringing the heat from the weak side as well as doing a damn fine job setting the edge versus the run. Another offseason and watch this guy climb the skill set ladder. It’s a matter of how many downs the young blazer can give each game.
DL – David Irving – saving perhaps the best for last. What is this kid’s best position? DE or DT? What is this kid’s ceiling? We are just beginning to find out. A very young player who has yet to settle into one position what we do know is he can take over a game and is truly a man among boys when he’s feeling it.
All of the above without mentioning Randy Gregory OR Terrell McClain who I soooo hope they resign.
A Randy Gregory skill set would complete the above assembly of players. Not the Snoop Dog party skilz, I mean the other skill set. Bringing the heat from the edge like a Banshee on acid.. That skill set. Yet in regards to overall assessment it maters not. The above group is MUCH better than the group that played last season. By the time the opening gun sounds they will be faster, quicker, stronger, smarter and (knowing Marinelli) a little more “cray-cray” than before.
Will Dallas add another edge rusher in the NFL Draft? Almost assuredly. Probably with one of their first three picks. I am liking what I see BEFORE the draft, however throw in guy who is built to bring it from the weak side and I am downright giddy.
CB1/2 is an offseason issue. So is WR2 and RB2. Defensive line is not. In reality this group, after years and years (and years) of neglect is finally starting to come together. Some say that until the team finds that one “star” this group won’t be good enough. I am of a different mindset however as I fully buy into Marinelli’s concept of “rushmen.” In truth I don’t pine for a 20 sack guy, though I do miss DeMarcus Ware. In fact I see and agree with the vision of multiple 5-6 sack guys eclipsing the same numbers at the end of the year a twenty and ten sack duo would give a team. When you consider this group may actually dwell in the 7-10 sack range it gets pretty darn exciting.
Which “rushmen” do you see having the biggest improvement and / or the biggest 2017 season? Comment below.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over