Dallas Cowboys 2018 Positional Breakdown: Defensive Line
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line had a bit of a resurgence in 2017. Is the sky the limit in 2018? Let’s break down this positional group.
At this time last offseason, the Dallas Cowboys were in searching for a War Daddy. That being a premier pass rusher as the Cowboys have struggled to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks for years.
Flash forward to today, and Dallas has found their War Daddy in defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Unfortunately, the talented 25-year old who racked up a whopping 14.5 sacks in 2017 is now a free agent.
Lawrence’s status is just one of several questions swirling around this positional group. Let’s dive into the depth chart and breakdown the this defensive line.
Taco Charlton, DE
Benson Mayowa, DE
Maliek Collins, DT
Datone Jones, DT
Lewis Neal, DT
Tyrone Crawford, DE
Richard Ash, DT
Randy Gregory, DE (suspended)
Joe Vellano, DT
Charles Tapper, DE
2018 Free Agents
David Irving, DT (RFA)
Brian Price, DT (EFRA)
Obviously, the biggest story here is Lawrence. Currently a free agent, the Cowboys will almost certainly retain him for at least another season. The method they choose to do so with will be the story. Although it appears Dallas wants to ink Lawrence to a long-term deal, slapping him with the franchise tag could ultimately be their best bet as the young defender was far too inconsistent during his first three seasons in Dallas.
Beyond Lawrence, the future of defensive tackle David Irving is a topic of much interest. A restricted free agent this offseason, Irving racked up 7.0 sacks in eight games last season. And the fact he has not been able to play a full season in his first three years in Dallas makes it unwise to simply hand him a long-term deal without more evidence.
Defensive end Tyron Crawford had a slight resurgence in 2017. But his massive contract still makes him a possible cap casualty this offseason. Fellow end Benson Mayowa failed to live up to expectations in 2017 posting one single sack after leading the team with 6.0 sacks in 2016.
The Cowboys first round selection last year, defensive end Taco Charlton, showed improvement recording his 3.0 sacks after Week Nine. But Dallas still considers him very much a work-in-progress.
Defensive tackle Maliek Collins is coming off a rather down season in his second year in Dallas. Considered one of the fastest interior defenders as a rookie, the Cowboys surely hope the 2016 third round pick can return to form in 2018.
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Beyond those names are several unproven defensive lineman. Most notable among them, Charles Tapper will attempt to kick-start his career in 2018 after injuries have robbed him of his first two seasons in the NFL. After a year-long ban for his substance abuse issues, former second round selection Randy Gregory has yet to apply for reinstatement as he continues to deal with his addiction. It’s unclear if he’ll ever play in the NFL again.