The Dallas Cowboys are coming off of a season that they’d like to forget, especially defensively. They gave up a franchise-worst 473 points and finished 31st against the run. However, amid that disaster, DeMarcus Lawrence continued being a stalwart on the Cowboy’s defensive line.
Pro Football Focus released its list of the top 32 edge defenders in the NFL. Lawrence came in at No. 7 for the 2021 season.
Ben Linsey on Lawrence’s ranking:
“Pass rush is always going to draw headlines for edge defenders. Lawrence has been one of the league’s best in that department, putting up a top-10 pass-rush win rate at the position since 2017. However, he has also been an elite run defender in recent years. Lawrence’s 90.1 run-defense grade over the last four seasons makes him one of just seven players at the position to clear the 90.0 mark since 2017.”
Most people judge defensive ends solely on sacks. But, the words of Linsey prove how Lawrence is worth every bit of the $21 million a year price tag he has. When you constantly set the edge against the run it forces plays back inside to allow interior defensive linemen and linebackers to make plays.
While Lawrence hasn’t reached double-digit sacks since the 2018 season, he constantly wins in his one-on-one opportunities and generates a lot of quarterback pressures. It might not seem important to the casual fan, but constant pressure from the edge forces quarterbacks to step up in the pocket and can make them easy targets for an interior defensive lineman.
2021 could see Lawrence’s sack numbers get back double-digits for a few reasons. With the addition of defensive tackle Brent Urban who does a great job of taking on double teams to apply pressure up the middle as a 1-technique, and Neville Gallimore taking the next step as a 3-technique, Lawrence could see more one-on-one situations. Also, if Randy Gregory takes a leap forward after making his triumphant return in 2020, that will draw some double teams to the right side and allow Lawrence to work one-on-one on the left side.
DeMarcus Lawrence is the tone-setter for the Cowboy’s defensive line and the best player on the defense overall. Everything starts in the trenches in the game of football, and on the defensive side, Lawrence is one of the league’s best.