The Cowboys sneaky pass rusher no one is talking about
Despite the pending suspensions levied on two of their defensive ends, the Dallas Cowboys could have a more than competent pass rusher right under their noses.
The Dallas Cowboys need pass rushers. This is a statement likely echoed every offseason that America’s Team has been in existence. The fact of the matter is you can never have enough of them.
But the Cowboys will certainly have less of them during the first four games of the regular seasons with pending suspensions looming over defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence. In their absence, the talk in Cowboys Nation has mostly surrounded Oklahoma rookie and fourth round selection Charles Tapper filling their void.
But the Cowboys have done more to address their need for more pass rush than Tapper. This offseason, they signed restricted free agent Benson Mayowa from the Oakland Raiders to bolster the position. They also added Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Cedric Thornton, who is a viable pass rusher from the three technique.
Dallas also re-signed defensive end Jack Crawford, who had a career season last year recording 21 total tackles and 4.0 sacks as a rotational rusher.
Despite these addition, there is one player that could impact the Cowboys pass rush in 2016 that is not being talked about. And that’s second-year defensive lineman David Irving.
"“One big positive is that Irving gets in throwing lanes when rushing the passer,” wrote former scout Bryan Broaddus on the team’s official website last September. “He has a knack for knocking down passes. He will play with range but again – he needs to get going to be successful. Length helps him as a pass rusher, but I feel like he is going to need some technique work going forward. He can get off the ball, and he has rare length with the upside to develop as a defensive end.”"
The Cowboys signed the 6-7, 272 pound undrafted rookie free agent out of Iowa State last September off of the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad. His presence on the interior of Dallas’ defensive line started paying dividends immediately.
Irving only recorded 13 tackles and 0.5 sacks in 12 games. But his impact goes beyond the numbers. Although not visible on the stat line, and with limited snaps, Irving was the Cowboys second best pass rusher on the interior of the defensive line according to Pro Football Focus. His pass rush rating of 74.1 was just behind Tyrone Crawford‘s 78.5.
And his play on special teams got noticed by longtime football writer Peter King, who named Irving his Special Teams Player of the Week in early November.
"“[Irving] very nearly saved the Cowboys’ season with one of the clutch blocked kicks of the year,” wrote King during his weekly column on the MMQB.com. “With the Cowboys ahead 12-10 midway through the fourth quarter, he swatted down Steven Hauschka’s 47-yard field-goal try, preventing Seattle from taking the lead. Great play at the perfect time—even if the Cowboys did allow Seattle to drive the length of the field for the winning field goal minutes later.”"
The Cowboys are expected to move Irving to defensive end this offseason. With his physical tools and a full offseason program in Dallas under his belt, the 22-year old could be a very sneaky and effective pass rusher for the Cowboys during the team’s first four games of the season…and beyond.
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