Dallas Cowboys To Unleash New Defensive Line Speed Package
By David Vaught
While the Dallas Cowboys are waiting on the decision to come down for defensive lineman Greg Hardy‘s suspension appeal, they can day dream about what could be. With the past few seasons pass rush leaving a lot of room for improvement, there is a real possibility they could make a huge leap forward in 2015.
Similar to what the New York Giants did a few years ago with their NASCAR package, the Cowboys can field an athletic and super quick defensive line that will put the kind of pressure on opposing offensive lines that could put the team over the top in the race for the NFC championship.
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Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence has been lining up this spring as the left defensive end. Tackle Tyrone Crawford made great strides last year playing inside. He would lineup next to Lawrence. Hardy would play inside next to rookie defensive end Randy Gregory, who would be the edge rusher on the right side.
Even with Hardy sitting the first half of the season, the line will still be formidable in the nickel package. Dallas could put defensive end Jeremy Mincey as the inside tackle next to Gregory on third down passing situations while waiting on Hardy.
Hardy has done most of his damage on opposing offensive lines as the edge rusher. But he has the power and strength to rush the passer from the inside. With line splits being wider on most third downs, this gives Hardy more room to work with and would force the offense to make tough decisions about whom to double.
It also creates opportunities to run stunts with Gregory and Hardy next to each other. If the line splits narrow, this leaves a lot of space on the edge for the rookie rusher and Lawrence.
The other potential benefit of this speed package is forcing the offense to leave a running back or tight end in the backfield, which takes them out of the passing game. The resulting benefit being less pressure on the linebackers to cover receivers up the field, leaving them free to pursue laterally and staying closer to the line of scrimmage.
NFL tackles fear players with the kind of unique quickness possessed by Lawrence, Hardy and Gregory because it forces them to set very quickly and thus exposing themselves to getting caught off balance. When a tackle gets off balance, the quarterback usually ends up getting hit.
By all accounts, Lawrence is not only bigger this year but even quicker off the ball. The team is hoping this could be a huge breakout year for him. With Gregory and Hardy on the same side of the line, that could leave Lawrence with a lot of one-on-one matchups with the opposing teams right tackle.
The most obvious reason for getting all four of their most talented rushers on the field is to take advantage of the blazing speed of Lawrence, Hardy and Gregory. The first step quickness of this line would cause many sleepless nights for opposing quarterbacks and coaches.
The speed of Gregory and Lawrence rushing from opposite edges was most likely the vision the team had during the draft, as it appeared Gregory may fall in their lap. For me, the most positive and exciting news to come out of OTA’s and mini-camp are all the accolades and positive feedback surrounding Gregory.
In their nickel package with rookie defensive back Byron Jones, corner Orlando Scandrick and linebackers Sean Lee and Rolando McClain, Dallas would increase their defensive speed significantly over last year.
One has to imagine that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is one of the happier coaches coming out of the spring and heading into training camp. For the first time in a long time, the Cowboys have a chance to strike fear into the heart of opposing quarterbacks.