The Cowboys defense has been considered by many to have been the teams Achilles’ heel in recent years. Primarily the lack of a pass rush which led to their demise in the playoffs vs GB.
The mastermind who has been given the task of righting the ship, Tampa 2 guru, Rod Marinelli, says it’s all about speed, speed, speed. When I look at the recent acquisitions that have been added to the Cowboys defense, the recipe is finally coming together.
Randy Gregory has been the subject of a lot scrutiny since he fell to the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft. Questions about his size, questions about his character, and last but not least, questions about his stats in college have caused some to wonder if he will translate to the NFL. Fear not sports fans. He is exactly the type of player Rod Marinelli wanted for his defense and I am convinced he had a lot of influence in the war room when the decision was made to draft him.
Randy Gregory is a pure, hybrid speed rusher and had arguably the best first step in the draft. Shane Ray being the other candidate. I sat up until 3am rewatching their game tape and realized something I had missed in the spring. Typically, Ray rushed the passer quite a bit more. The Nebraska defense did Gregory no justice in showcasing his abilities. However, when he did rush, I noticed he not only played with more power, but better technique. If I had studied them back to back in the spring, I wouldn’t have mocked the Cowboys trading up to get Ray like the Broncos did. Rest easy folks, Gregory will develop in to an elite pass rusher. Whether or not he will live up to inheriting the #94 is yet to be seen, but the value in the second round, may prove to be the best since the chiefs got my pet cat, Justin Houston, in the third.
DeMarcus Lawrence was a household favorite here at YDCFF. Al did an outstanding scouting report on him. You can read it by clicking here. Revisiting it, you can see that he was spot on. He has become an important cog in the Cowboys’ defense and is expected to have a breakout 2015 season. He began to show flashes of what’s to come late last year.
Lawrence was expected to be a day one contributor, but an unfortunate injury during his rookie training camp, sidelined him for significant time. Although he was unable to be on the field with the team, it didn’t stop him from improving on one of his weaknesses. Lawrence needed to add some weight and get stronger. I remember a conversation with former NFL scout Bryan Broaddus and him mentioning that every time he went by the weight room, Lawrence was in there. It shows too. He added about 10 lbs of muscle. Ironically, that was what Al said he needed to do.
Tyrone Crawford was one of the players I profiled in my “The Guys No One is Talking about” series. Like Lawrence, he was also a Boise product. If there is one thing you can be sure of, anyone coming out of BSU, is not only well coached, but has a high IQ and excellent character. Crawford was one of those guys that NFL scouts were unsure about where to play him. He was considered a possible 5 tech in a 3-4, a LDE or an under tackle (3 tech) in the 4-3. In all honesty, he is versatile enough to play all 3 positions. Marinelli has moved him around a bit and it appears he found a home at the 3 tech.
Crawford has shown that he has good burst off of the line, good power at the point and the quickness Rod likes for the position. With another off season and camp under his belt to improve his technique and get more comfortable at the position, I expect to see him emerge as one of the best in the league this year.
The addition of Greg Hardy to the Cowboys defense, was in my opinion, a great move for two reasons. The first being his veteran leadership and work ethic. We already know he is an elite pass rusher, but what he also brings is the necessary experience to help the young players along. Losing Ware left me concerned that there was no one on the team to be that guy. His presence on the field will draw double teams which will help leave some favorable one on one match-ups enabling other guys to make some plays.
The verdict is still out on Byron Jones, but if he lives up to the hype, he will add some much needed versatility to the back end of the defense. At this point he doesn’t even have a position, so I will reserve my thoughts until I see how he looks in the preseason.
My biggest concern entering this season is whether or not the starters can stay healthy. It has been a major problem in recent years. The LB position is crucial to the Tampa 2. If Sean Lee and Rolando McClain can actually complete a full season, this could be the best Cowboys’ defense in the last decade.
so, to answer the question: What can we expect from the Cowboys defense in 2015? Get your popcorn out. Barring injury, this defense will easily make the top 10. If Gregory and Jones adjust as fast as I believe they can, top 5. The Cowboys were a top 10 defense away from the big show last year, so we all know what that means come February. How bout Dem Cowboys: (in my best Jimmy Johnson voice.)