Did DeMarcus Lawrence cost the Dallas Cowboys a Super Bowl run?

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 02: DeMarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 2, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 02: DeMarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 2, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

In the midst of an incredible season with the Dallas Cowboys, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence admits he lied about his health in 2016.

One of the lone bright spots for the Dallas Cowboys this season is the play of fourth-year defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Through 11 games, the 25-year old has posted 47 combined tackles, three forced fumbles and 11.5 sacks.

Lawrence’s current sack total is the third highest in the NFL right now, only trailing Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones and Minnesota Vikings pass rusher Everson Griffen by half a sack.

In the midst of the final year of his rookie deal in Dallas, Lawrence’s current production was unthinkable a season ago. After serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy to start 2016, Lawrence looked to be a shell of himself on the field. And the possibility of him being labeled a draft bust seemed to be nearing reality.

Offseason back surgery figured to play a part ion his poor play, but the former second round selection still suited up in nine games for the Cowboys last year. But his 11 combined tackles and 1.0 sack was only a whisper of the potential he showed during his sophomore season in Dallas.

The Cowboys traded with their divisional rivals, the Washington Redskins, in order to land Lawrence with the 34th overall selection at the top of the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. It cost Dallas their second (47th) and third round picks (78th) in order to do so.

Some of the names that were drafted between those two traded picks included running back Carlos Hyde, center Travis Swanson and wide receivers like Allen Robinson, Davante Adams and Jarvis Landry.

Due to a foot injury, Lawrence’s rookie debut would be delayed until the midseason. That first year, he posted a paltry nine total tackles and zero sacks in seven games. But Lawrence came alive in the postseason, recording 2.0 sacks, a forced fumble and a subsequent game-sealing recovery in two playoff contests.

The arrow continued to point upwards for Lawrence in his second season, as the Cowboys coaching staff opted to shift Tank from right defensive end to the left side, giving the young defender more run stuffing responsibility. Lawrence responded recording 55 total tackles and 8.0 sacks in 2015. A sign of his late blooming was the fact seven of those sacks were posted after Week 10.

Which brings us to the disappointment of last season. After showing so much promise, a drug suspension and offseason back surgery seemed to rob Lawrence of his entire third year as a professional. And now we know exactly why. The young defender was lying to himself, his coaches and his teammates about his health all last season.

"“I couldn’t even bend over most of the season. It was tough,” Lawrence told the team’s official website. “I was lying to myself and everyone else about how real the pain was … The trainers knew how bad it was, but it was just a mindset for me, that everything is OK, everything is good. I didn’t want to let my teammates down. That was my main purpose, standing alongside them.”"

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli confirmed Lawrence was fibbing when it came to his health last season. And that Tank was just so overwhelmingly positive and confident, even Marinelli wanted to believe him.

Lawrence is not the first player to lie about his health in order to get on a football field. And he won’t be the last. But the young pass rusher surely did the Cowboys and himself a disservice by lying last season, when the team had a real shot at a Super Bowl run.

Instead of doing what was needed to get himself healthy, which was to have another back surgery (which he got this offseason), Lawrence “toughed it out”. And that decision could have cost the Cowboys dearly.

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If DeMarcus Lawrence had simply been honest about his health from the start, not only would it have set him on the path of recovery much sooner, but the team could have invested his wasted time on the field in developing another pass rusher. And who knows? That additional investment, and/or a healthy Lawrence, might have made all the difference for a 13-3 Cowboys team that was a mere four points away from the NFC Championship game last year.