FRISCO, Texas – Preseason often feels like it lasts forever, but it all ultimately builds toward one moment.
In what has apparently become an annual tradition, the Cowboys will once again face the New York Giants to open the season. Ultimately, all the decisions they make this summer will aim toward that end goal – lining up and getting a season-opening win against a division rival.
That’s the focus of today’s question, specifically for this Dallas defensive line. This is a talented group, but it’s been beset by uncertainty – whether that’s surgeries, suspensions or anything in between. For a number of reasons, it feels like guesswork trying to figure out who will be ready for the season opener.
So when Eli Manning and the Giants come to town, who will be lining up to get after him?
David Helman: I spent most of the offseason worrying about DeMarcus Lawrence, but I’m starting to feel some optimism. Hanging around the facility, you can see him working through his rehab and it’s easy to feel hopeful that he’ll be ready for Week 1. I do worry about Tyrone Crawford. They say “no news is good news,” but I’m not sure that’s true when it comes to the NFL. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that he’s facing at least a one or two game suspension. In light of all that, I’m thinking the initial four-man front against New York on Sept. 8 is D-Law, Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods and Robert Quinn. If Lawrence is ready, the rest will fall into place.
Bryan Broaddus: That’s an interesting question due the possible suspension of Tyrone Crawford. I still think there is a chance he will likely miss that opening game. If he were available, I’d pencil him in as the nickel tackle with Maliek Collins. That would leave DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn on the edges. With Crawford out of the lineup, that means I need to find a guy to pair with Collins. The guy that makes the most sense is veteran Christian Covington, who did a nice job of helping his Houston Texans teammates in 2018. Collins and Covington both are power players that can push the pocket but also play with quickness against a Giants unit that has improved inside with their guard play.
Lindsay Draper: Although he’s still on the road to recovery, it’s been encouraging to hear about DeMarcus Lawrence’s rehab going well. Add that with the continual uncertainty with both Randy Gregory and Taco Charlton, Rod Marinelli’s getting creative (like always) for Week 1. Although his status remains be seen, as Bryan said, one player I see kicking outside is Tyrone Crawford. I personally like seeing him inside as a run stopper, but they may need more bodies outside. Robert Quinn will also garner attention in Week 1, and I’m hopeful young Dorance Armstrong has turned a corner this offseason and may be able to bring some production.
Rob Phillips: Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has his D-Line rotation just the way he wants it: deep, quick, versatile. On paper, this is the best group he’s had here in Dallas. There are some immediate question marks regarding Week 1, though. The Cowboys are optimistic about Lawrence’s availability, but he’ll probably be rehabbing his shoulder through preseason. Gregory’s status is in the hands of the league office. But guys like Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins will be expected to hold down the interior, and Robert Quinn is a major addition on the edge. The defense needs Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong to take steps forward, particularly if the defensive end depth is lacking early on. I’m curious to see which rookies win jobs. Jalen Jelks, the team’s final draft pick in April, has an uphill climb, but he’s got really good natural ability.