When the Cowboys report to training camp on July 22 in Oxnard, California, several questions will still need to be answered.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rowan Kavner, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – will attempt to answer these questions before the start of training camp. The questions will vary in importance, with the most pressing topics getting brought up in the days closest to camp.
Today, the staff predicts how the Cowboys will go about replacing DeMarcus Ware and which player will help fill that void in sacks the most.
14) Where Does This Defense Start To Replace DeMarcus Ware?
Rowan Kavner: Replacing a player of that caliber will have to be a group effort, but someone's got to eventually lead the charge. The way they've been pumping him up – and by they, I mean everyone from management and coaches to the players, including Tony Romo – Tyrone Crawford may be one of the few players on this roster capable of nearing that double-digit sack total in an absolute best case scenario. Everyone had high hopes for Crawford in 2013 before the season-ending injury, and no one can be sure coming off an Achilles tear how a player will react, but the Cowboys are counting on Crawford being a difference maker. We haven't really seen what he can do yet in the 4-3, but if there's a defensive lineman physically capable of a dominant year, why not Crawford? If Crawford and Henry Melton can both provide what the Cowboys expect of them, they could ease the burden of replacing Ware. For Crawford, it'll largely depend on his health.
Nick Eatman: They'll have other defensive ends rushing the passer, but the best guy to actually replace DeMarcus Ware… is DeMarcus Lawrence. Might be asking a lot for a rookie. But he doesn't have to become the Cowboys' all-time sack leader. He doesn't even have to lead the NFL in sacks, which Ware did twice. But when it comes to being a physical freak, relentless rusher and an outright difference-maker that is hard to block every snap, that's what Lawrence has to be. Sure there's a big difference between the 34th pick and the 11th pick, as Ware was in 2005. But Lawrence has to be a guy the Cowboys can eventually move around and someone opposing quarterbacks are worried about. I don't know even think Lawrence necessarily has to start right away and be a three-down lineman. But on third-and-8, he's got to be in the game and making a difference.
Bryan Broaddus: My first response would be to draft the son of a former Dallas Cowboys cornerback by the name of Mario Edwards Jr out of Florida State and that would be an outstanding start. But since that would not be an option until possibly the 2015 NFL Draft, I will focus on who is currently on the roster. I really do like what I have seen from another DeMarcus and that would be DeMarcus Lawrence. I was asked on Twitter how many sacks I thought Lawrence would get his rookie season and the number I came up with was seven. The more I think about it, his learning curve appears to be very small and if he picks up what Rod Marinelli, Leon Lett and Ben Bloom are teaching him, that number could increase. I am not saying there will not be some rough games and bad matchups for him, but if he can fight through that rookie wall, he has a chance to be really good. [embedded_ad] David Helman: Well, his name isn't DeMarcus – not in 2014, at least. DeMarcus Lawrence is going to have a chance to put together a strong rookie season, given the dearth of experience on the defensive line. I'm still going to maintain the standby line that it's all on Henry Melton to lead the charge to the opposing quarterback. During DeMarcus Ware's prime, it was common to see the All-Pro finish with 12 or more sacks, with no other teammates coming close. When Ware recorded 20 sacks in 2008, the next-best on the Dallas defense were Bradie James and Greg Ellis with eight. I don't think that's a realistic expectation this year. The Cowboys need to hope Melton can lead the way with nine or 10 sacks, and they'll need several other guys to try to match him with six or seven of their own. The Cowboys won't see DeMarcus-type sack totals this season.