He Said: Pass Rusher is the Cowboys Biggest Draft Need

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Not having a dominant pass rusher has held the Cowboys back since the middle of the 2012 season.

pass rusher randy gregory

Cas and I started the “He Said-She Said” series last year with the intent to show the readers two points of view. It has evolved in to a friendly competition to prove the other one wrong. For this edition, we are looking ahead to the 2016 offseason and letting you know where we see the biggest draft need for the Cowboys. I belive it’s a pass rusher.

My personal opinion is that your draft should follow the BPA (best player available) formula. But, all ties or close calls should revert to your biggest area of need. For me, it is apparent that the Cowboys biggest needs still reside on the defensive side of the ball: on defense, nothing is more important than a dominant pass rusher.

The Cowboys front office has a history of neglecting pass rusher depth in the draft. Back in 2008 and again in 2012, Jerry Jones tried to shore up the Dallas defense from the back end forward. In 2008, he focused on the draft by getting cornerbacks Mike Jenkins in the first round and Orlando Scandrick in the 5th all while committing to keep Terrence Newman. In 2012 , the team focused again on the defensive backfield for needed improvements by trading up to draft Morris Claiborne and paying big bucks to sign Brandon Carr. I don’t need to tell you how that worked out with the only one of those 4 that has been consistently good (Scandrick) sitting at home rehabbing torn knee ligaments.

Where are the Cowboys pass rushers right now?

Pass Rusher Harvey MartinThe Dallas Cowboys 2015 season has been mired in a mess of injuries and failed personnel decisions. While the decisions on offense have hurt (trusting Joseph Randle at RB, trusting Brandon Weeden at back up QB, trusting Devin Street at back up WR), this season has been far more damaged by all the problems caused by a sub par pass rush. The team’s most talented pass rusher (Greg Hardy) missed four games with a league suspension and had at least two games of sub par performance once the pictures of his ex-girlfriend were published and he dealt with all of the well-deserved criticism.

The team’s prize 2nd round pass rusher (Randy Gregory) has been hindered all season by injuries and has yet to break out for his first sack after showing the ability to dominate in the preseason. Last year’s prize 2nd round pass rusher (Demarcus Lawrence) has yet to fulfill the team’s high expectations after losing most of last year to a broken foot. All of this has led to the team being 25th in the NFL in sacks, 26th in the league in INT and tied for last in fumble recoveries. The lack of pressure has allowed mediocre quarterbacks (Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford) to have good days and elite quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Cam Newton) to post monster games.

Where will the Cowboys be after the season?

Pass rusher Greg HardyThe first decision that needs to be made regarding the defense in this offseason is to LET GREG HARDY GO! Don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those squawkers that doesn’t believe Hardy didn’t deserve a second chance. I am just convinced that he has acted poorly enough to have burned that 2nd chance here. Since he has been here he has missed or been late to multiple meetings and publicly ranted on players and a coach on the sideline of games. His production capability is very good which makes it even more concerning that his production to distraction ratio is still so bad.

Letting Hardy walk means depending upon the growth of Lawrence and Gregory and remember that Gregory came to the team with his own potential for becoming a distraction. They have a solid pass rusher in Tyrone Crawford at the 3-technique but they get absolutely no pocket push from the middle at the 1-technique. That has to improve as pressure up the middle causes the most problems for even the best quarterbacks. While it won’t always lead to more sacks it definitely causes more opportunities for interceptions.

How should the Cowboys move forward?

Pass Rusher Robert NkemdicheOnce again, I don’t advocate reaching to draft a player at any position. I do believe however that the team needs to really work hard to find pass rushers that can be acquired at the proper draft value and ALL ties should go to the pass rusher. We all know that Tony Romo is not getting any younger or less prone to injury at age 36 and beyond.

The best way to help him succeed and prepare for a future without him is to create a defense that can take the pressure off of the quarterback the same way Romo has taken the pressure off of the entire rest of the team for the greater part of a decade. It would be nice to get a defensive back that could actually catch the ball but the best turnover is the strip sack fumble.

Fumbles and fumble recoveries tend to be random in general. What is not random is a pass rusher that can get the strip sack. That fumble is more likely to be seen first by defenders facing the ball which give the defense a better chance of actually getting the turnover.

Whether the Dallas Cowboys target a pocket pushing beast like Robert Nkemdiche (pictured above) from Ole Miss or a highly productive outside rusher like Joey Bosa from Ohio State, improving their pass rush is vital to the team having success in 2016 and beyond. Getting a young pass rusher they can groom out of the 2016 draft will allow the Cowboys to continue the influx of DL talent that could soon rival their vaunted OL.

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  • gcarr1213

    I have seen the pass rush, only for the QB to get the ball out a millisecond quicker than the rush gets home. The coverage to me is what’s holding everyone back.