The Dallas Cowboys will have a huge decision to make regarding the future of defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence following a red-hot start in 2017.
The Dallas Cowboys have been searching for a franchise pass rusher since the economically-driven departure of DeMarcus Ware following the 2013 regular season, which ended up being the last of three consecutive 8-8 seasons for current head coach Jason Garrett.
As Dallas would improve to 12-4 and an appearance in the NFC divisional playoffs in 2014, it didn’t seem to some that Ware’s absence would hinder the franchise too much. I can’t say that I felt that way, but clear is the fact that the Cowboys took a pretty big leap in ’14 without the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks.
Ironic is the fact that the Dallas Cowboys drafted Boise State defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft for the very purpose of planting him right where Ware had lined up as a right-side edge rusher in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s 4-3 alignment. Lawrence came into the league a bit undersized at about 250 pounds and would make zero impact over the course of his inaugural regular season in Dallas.
We all remember Lawrence recovering an apparent game-winning fumble against the Detroit Lions in that NFC wild-card playoff game at the venue formerly known as Cowboys Stadium. The rookie had the game in his hands, but then fumbled away his own recovery right back to the Lions so quarterback Matthew Stafford could continue what might have been a season-ending disaster for the Cowboys.
But there was Lawrence again just a few plays later on a crucial fourth-down play with seconds remaining. His lightening-quick strip-sack of Stafford, recovered all by himself, sealed Dallas’ first playoff win since January of 2010 and gave Cowboys Nation hope that the franchise’s new defensive face had arrived.
That was almost three years ago.
Before the 2017 regular season began early last month, all Lawrence had done since 2015 was lead the team in sacks with 8.0 and then muster only one sack in 2016.
Sure, leading the team in sacks with just about any number is a good thing, but eight isn’t exactly enough to convince any franchise to extend a short-term investment like Lawrence was at the time.
Not healthy over most of the successful 2016 campaign, Lawrence only chalked up a single sack on a team that went 13-3 behind a new era of offensive leaders like quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Zeke Elliott. In fact, for almost a year now the most mentioned name associated with being a future star on the Dallas defensive line is David Irving, whose just completed a four-game suspension to begin this season and has done nothing as of yet.
But things change quickly in the NFL, don’t they?