Everyone and their mother knew what the Dallas Cowboys biggest need was going into the 2014 NFL Draft. Defense. The Cowboys ranked last in total defense in the NFL last year. Yet, at the end of the draft this weekend, the Cowboys seemingly came away from the event without a single defensive starter. If that’s true, how can anyone look upon this draft as a success from a “need” stand point?
The biggest crossroads for argument will be the development of second round pick, Boise State defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Despite the trade for the pass rusher that cost Dallas their second and third round picks, most fans believed the team found a difference-making edge rusher in Lawrence. But it now appears the Cowboys coaching staff believes the rookie will actually start the regular season as a back-up to defensive ends Anthony Spencer and George Selvie.
A positive point that should be made here is current defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s scheme involves frequent substitutions. That fact actually lessens the importance placed on starters and focuses more on stamina, motor and drive. We all know the wonders Marinelli can do with motivation. And he’ll need to work his magic again this season to pull this group out of the NFL doldrums.
During an interview with On Air with DC Star on Wednesday, Cowboys assistant director of player personnel Will McClay was asked if Lawrence was a type of first round player who can come in Day One, start and contribute to this football team this year:
“Yes. That’s the reason why he was picked there. I’ve seen some things where people have said ‘well, he’s a designated pass rusher or this or that’. Really, with the amount of passing that’s in the NFL right now, and the way that we’re going to play defense, it’s important to play fast, to play physical, and get after the passer. So whether this guy starts and plays 60 plays a game, which we don’t plan on doing, or he plays 30 to 40 plays a game as he gets into learning the NFL game, as long as he does what we drafted him for then we got great value for him.”
Although McClay initially supports the idea that Lawrence was drafted as a starter, he backs off that statement saying they don’t plan on playing him in that role. But how can this draft be seen as anything more than a bust if the Cowboys failed to address their biggest need? If they failed to get one single defensive starter in 2014? It appears the answer to that question falls squarely on the shoulders of one single second round rookie. Would you expect anything less in Dallas?