Dallas Cowboys defensive line not according to plan


Even with the absence of two starters on the defensive line, the Dallas Cowboys can still prosper with help from coaching and the schedule.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The Dallas Cowboys organization, contrary to what you will see on the field opening night against the division rival New York Giants, put a plan into place to rebuild their defensive line in the wake of departures such as DeMarcus Ware (money) and Jason Hatcher (age/money).

Two years ago, Dallas traded up in the second round and drafted DeMarcus Lawrence to rush from one end.  The very next draft, they seized an opportunity and selected Randy Gregory in the very same round to play opposite Lawrence.  Whenever a top ten talent slips, the question besides why is he slipping is always how far does he fall before the reward outweighs the risk.

Unfortunately, while the Joneses, Jason Garrett and Will McClay were right that sixtieth overall pick was too good to pass up, they are now dealing with the risk part of that deal as Gregory is suspended for four games for the very same issue that caused his draft stock to fall.

As for Lawrence, he too is dealing with a suspension, however his is easier to swallow given that he just used the wrong supplement for a serious medical condition as opposed to Gregory’s perceived disregard for his teammates and selfish choices.

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So, here are the Cowboys, likely to send out two guys as “starters” that are not only much less heralded than Lawrence and Gregory, but also somehow less experienced.  In their stead, enter Benson Mayowa, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders and Ryan Russell, a fifth round selection from Gregory’s draft that spent almost all of 2015 learning how to play end as he was a linebacker in college.

Collective starts in the league from Mayowa and Russell, three.  All from Mayowa.  Lawrence has ten more than that on his own, not to mention playoff experience and production.

Sprinkle in the news of this year’s first selection for Rod Marinelli’s rushmen, Maliek Collins being rendered pretty much useless for a significant amount of time due to a foot injury and the prospects of putting Eli Manning on his back seem bleak.

If anyone can work with “less,” it would seem to be Marinelli.  The irony of this is that the replacements are almost replicas of those expected to be the starters Mayowa provides a good amount of speed but is a bit undersized weight wise for the line (6’3” 235), much like Gregory.  Russell is a bit bigger (6’5” 267) then all of them but will rely on moves over outright power rushing, similar to Lawrence.

Beyond them, Jack Crawford returns to pair along with rookie fourth round selection Charles Tapper to provide relief for Mayowa and Russell for the first four games.  Along with the instant experience Tapper will get, the biggest fortune that Dallas likely finds from this situation is that they are not going to be facing all-world competition from their opposing quarterbacks.

Manning, along with Kirk Cousins, Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick/Blaine Gabbert all have a tendency to keep the other team in the game so to speak.  Cutler and Manning have each led the league in interceptions multiple times.  Kaepernick is a mess and it’s not exactly like head coach Chip Kelly has earned quarterback guru status in the NFL.  As for Cousins, his breakout year notwithstanding, there are still some holes in his game to be exploited.

If the other guys can play up to their capabilities (read: Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lee, Orlando Scandrick, Byron Jones) and provide the line with an extra second or two to get to the quarterback, the offense should be able to do their part and keep the team afloat for the first month.  A record of 3-1 is very doable with that schedule and would set up the team nicely for the return of Lawrence and Gregory.

It should not have to be this way, but if anyone can make chicken salad out of chicken excrement, it’s Rod Marinelli.

Next: The Cowboys forgotten defensive acquisition

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