IRVING, Texas – When the Cowboys report to training camp on July 22 in Oxnard, Calif., 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 where the pass rush will be coming from after some notable losses this offseason.
3) Where's The Pass Rush Going To Come From?
Rowan Kavner:The answer needs to be "everywhere," because no one's going to approach the 14-sack mark that DeMarcus Ware hit four times during his career with the Cowboys. With the emphasis on waves of linemen being used, I think we're more likely to see a handful of sacks from a greater quantity of players. George Selvie needs to at least be 2013 Selvie. Henry Melton needs to be the seven-sack guy he's been before, and if he's not, Tyrone Crawford has to pick up the slack and reach the mighty expectations placed upon him. I also think Jeremy Mincey ends up producing more than people realize. My expectations for Anthony Spencer will be tempered until I actually see him able to move around, and the same goes for DeMarcus Lawrence, because I think great pass rushers usually need a year or two to adjust. If this defense is to shift gears and start becoming more competitive, a reliable pass rusher probably has to emerge. I think when it's all said and done, Crawford and Mincey lead the pack, but no one reaches the double-digit sack mark.
David Helman:For all the hype we've heard and all the importance we've placed there – from the signing of Henry Melton to the countless speculation about possibly drafting Aaron Donald – I have no choice but to look squarely at the three-technique spot. Jason Hatcher led the team in sacks from that position, and it's the position people credit with making Rod Marinelli's system work. The Cowboys took a chance on Henry Melton, recovering from an ACL tear, because Marinelli needed a three-technique to power his pass rush. Tyrone Crawford and Terrell McClain have also been touted as guys who can generate pressure from the interior. We saw what could happen when quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Peyton Manning had all day to pick apart this secondary, and the most effective way to stop that is to collapse the pocket. Marinelli was able to coax 11 sacks out of Hatcher last year – a league best for defensive tackles. Melton and the guys he rotates with are going to need to be similarly disruptive while the Cowboys' young defensive ends find their footing.
Nick Eatman: I don't know if I can recall a position in recent memory where it's so wide open heading into camp. Here we are less than a week away and no one can really tell you who the best player on the defensive line is. In fact, naming a four-man starting lineup would be a tough game to play. So predicting where the rush is coming from is just as difficult. I know there will be someone on this roster we're barely talking about who will get himself in the mix in a Selvie-like fashion. But I have a good feeling about DeMarcus Lawrence. Even though he's a rookie, I think he will be one of the best pass-rushers on this team. And if he doesn't start right away, that might be a good thing. A fresh pass-rusher like him on third downs can quietly sneak around and get close to double-digit sacks. Lawrence has great size and quickness but his power will surprise a few tackles this year and sometimes that can be all you need to get to the quarterback. So while it's a vague question, I'll go with Lawrence to push and possibly pass DeMarcus Ware's 2005 mark of eight sacks in his rookie season. [embedded_ad]
Bryan Broaddus: For a scheme that is built on applying pressure with just a four man rush, how Rod Marinelli and this staff manufacture it will be the key whether this defense finds itself in the top 15 or we are talking about a new coaching staff trying to figure that out. The responsibility of replacing DeMarcus Ware will not fall on the shoulders of one player but several. Guys like Henry Melton, George Selvie and DeMarcus Lawrence will be required to apply the bulk of that pressure but guys like Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain and Martez Wilson with an occasional blitz from Kyle Wilber and Orlando Scandrick out of the slot will be cards that Marinelli will play at some point and time during the season to generate pressure. In talking to members of the front office and coaching staff, as nice as it would be to have a player like Ware in his prime, their goal is to spread those sacks and pressures out among their front seven much like what we have seen from the Seahawks in 2013.