Back in 2011, DeMarcus Ware finished the regular season with 19.5 sacks and the Dallas Cowboys finished with 42 total sacks. The Cowboys pass rush back in 2011 consisted of DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher, Jay Ratliff, and Marcus Spears. You look at that defensive line/linebacker depth chart and you understand how the Cowboys finished with 42 sacks. As we all know, all of the guys listed are no longer with the Cowboys, and he sack total for the Cowboys started its decline after the 2011 season.
In an effort to help the pass rush before the decline hit its lowest point, the Cowboys jumped up in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft and selected Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence only played 2 years at Boise State, but in his 2 years he registered more total tackles, 4 more sacks and only less than tackle for loss than 2014 number one overall pick, Jadeveon Clowney. Lawrence would suffer a foot injury in camp and he’d be out for most of the year until the playoffs. In the playoffs he sacked both Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers. 2014 was the year where Jason Garrett and company really saw how bleak the pass rush was. The Cowboys finished the season with just 28 total sacks and Jeremy Mincey lead the team with 6.
The Cowboys made it a priority in 2015 to go out and fix their pass rush any way they could. On March 18th, the Cowboys went out and signed former Carolina Panther, Greg Hardy. This signing was rather controversial because Hardy had been wrapped up in a domestic violence case involving his then girlfriend. A month later, the NFL suspended Hardy for 10 games, but Hardy would challenge that suspension in court and get it reduced to just 4 games. Hardy will return in Week 5 to play the New England Patriots.
Before Hardy’s suspension was reduced the Cowboys stole the NFL draft. The Cowboys took falling Nebraska defensive end, Randy Gregory in the second round. Gregory was a projected top 15 pick until he failed a drug test at the NFL Combine in February. Gregory finished his 2 year career at Nebraska with 119 total tackles, 26.5 for loss and 16.5 sacks. To put it into perspective, in his 2 years at Nebraska compared to number 3 overall pick, Dante Fowler Jr, Gregory finished with more solo tackles, tackles for loss and total tackles. He also finished with 16.5 sacks compared to Fowler’s 12. Fowler was selected 3rd overall, and Gregory was selected 60th overall. Stats don’t lie.
In the 5th round of the same draft, the Cowboys drafted Purdue DE, Ryan Russell. Russell finished his 4 years at Purdue with 149 total tackles, 24.5 of those for loss and 9.5 sacks. Russell is just another piece in an attempt to fix the miserable pass rush of 2014. Russell obviously won’t be the starter, but for the rotational defensive line coach Marinelli loves to run, we’ll be seeing some of Ryan Russell.
Tyrone Crawford, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Ben Gardner along with the additions of Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory and Ryan Russell will all help fix this pass rush. Jason Garrett has quickly rebuilt the defensive line like he did the offensive line. The pass rush will be an intricate part in the success of this defense.
Ladies and Gentlemen,