Four weeks in the NFL is quite a long time to be without your top defensive end, but with a 3-1 record the Cowboys receive an enormous boost in talent with the return of DeMarcus Lawrence.
Reports of residual back issues have been somewhat hushed as the man known as ‘Tank’ increased his workload through the week. But along with a truckload of hope and a wave of questions to match, what does the Boise State product bring into this 2016 season? Were his seven sacks in last season’s final eight games a prelude to a breakout, or were they the product of double teams on a certain former Cowboy at the opposite end of the line?
What better way to foretell what’s to come than by looking at what’s past, and while sacks aren’t the only measure of pass rush production, they are what the Cowboys so desperately need against their toughest matchup to date, the Cincinnati Bengals.
Sack 1. Vs New Orleans Saints
Lined up outside the tight end, Lawrence immediately gets his right arm inside and up underneath the Saints right tackle, and sharpens towards Drew Brees, maintaining good body angle. Keeping his left arm extended and free he’s able to bring down the quarterback with one hand by the back of his jersey
Sack 2. Vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rushing from the left edge, Lawrence takes a short step inside to draw the Buccanners right tackle forward, then swats his hands to get clear to the outside and take a bee-line for Jameis Winston. Length comes into play as he’s able to do enough to get the quarterback off balance and eventually down to end the half.
Sack 3. Vs Miami Dolphins
This time lined up at right end, Lawrence pushes off the tight end and loops back to the inside gap with Greg Hardy (3-tech) attracting the attention of the left guard and pushing the left tackle off balance as well. Closes with burst through the lane to beat #76 for the sack on Ryan Tannehill.
Sack 4. Vs Washington Redskins #1
The Washington line moves right off the snap, allowing Lawrence to dart directly inside behind Tyrone Crawford, who occupies both the right tackle and right guard. The center also gets tied up with #98, reacting too slowly as #90 splits through with low pad level to come down on Kirk Cousins.
Sack 5. Vs Washington Redskins #2
Two plays later off the left side, #90 times his game with Crawford to perfection. Initially pushes upfield, plants and crosses the face of the guard with quickness, easily sheds off-balance blocker and slaps the ball free forcing the fumble. Few steps needed to get to the quarterback.
Sack 6. Vs Green Bay Packers
Great first-up hand placement on the right tackle – right hand into chest followed by left hand swat, getting arms over to capture the edge and hunt Aaron Rodgers down from the rear.
Sack 7. Vs New York Jets
1-on-1 rush off the edge is stalled, but using length to keep the right tackle off his body Lawrence quickly diagnoses pressure from opposite side and breaks across the line of scrimmage. Meets Fitzpatrick as he tries to escape front of the pocket, long-stride speed securing the sack.
Sack 8. Vs Buffalo Bills
Facing double-team alignment, the tight end nudges Lawrence lightly off the snap before bailing. #90’s initial punch puts the right tackle on his back foot and keeps hands clean. Follows up with windmill-like arm-over swim move to capture edge. Reaches top gear in an instant to take down Tyrod Taylor.
So after hitting the film on this eight-pack, what did we learn from the Dallas edge rusher’s eight sacks of a season ago?
– Hands. In the majority of these plays Lawrence sets up and executes with pin-point active hand placement to keep blockers of his body and get his shoulders/hips rounding the bend.
– Rapid acceleration. Lawrence isn’t rushing his… rushes. He shows the understanding that by precise footwork and technique he can gain the angle, then close with vicious speed.
– Tyrone Crawford should smile. Although #98 resides at left end presently, he should be beaming at the prospect of not only getting a threat back on the right edge, but kicking inside to rush next to his fellow Boise product. The two have always shown outstanding chemistry running games and twists along the line, and that came through on the impact plays above.
– Greg Hardy double teams. The Kracken in the room, what did the tape show?
On just 3 of the 8 plays above was Greg Hardy double-teamed, including snaps inside where multiple blockers are often part and parcel at the point of attack. A help? Certainly. The decisive factor Lawrence’s production as an pass rusher? No sir.
With Dallas desperately searching for an injection of explosion and truth to Rod Marinelli’s ‘Rushmen’, DeMarcus Lawrence’s tape tells no lies.