OXNARD, Calif.– DeMarcus Lawrence is one of nine Cowboys players driving a rental golf cart around the training camp complex with his name on it – a perk as a recognized winner from the team's nine-week offseason strength and conditioning program.
Now he's looking to build on the first two sacks of his career that came in the playoffs.
"You just feel like coming off last season, you have a lot more to prove," Lawrence said. "They know I can do it, and now it's just all about a matter of doing it."
Lawrence was one of four defensive players and nine overall (four offense, four defense, one special teams) honored for their performance and improvement. Others were left tackle Tyron Smith, running back Lance Dunbar, tight end Jason Witten, wide receiver Cole Beasley, safety Jeff Heath, cornerback Tyler Patmon, linebacker Kyle Wilber and punter Chris Jones.
Strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik and his staff have developed, and adjusted over the years, a criteria scale for their strength and conditioning program. There is a point-based composite score for each player, similar to a decathlon scoring table.
No one helped himself more than Lawrence following his rookie season, according to the program's grading system. He is listed at 265, five pounds heavier than last season. But his biggest improvement was leg strength – a vital trait for a pass rusher's quick first step. He raised his vertical leap by three and a half inches, and his 10-yard split time was faster than any defensive lineman on the team.
"I think he's a bigger, stronger, more explosive athlete than he was when he came in here a year ago," head coach Jason Garrett said. "And you see a determination and an intensity on the football field that you really like."
A broken foot cost Lawrence most of training camp and the first nine games of his rookie season. In a sense, his offseason program got a head start. He returned in November with a stronger frame and stronger technique, more prepared for the rigors of an NFL schedule.
He elevated his play in the playoffs – first, in the Wild Card round with a strip-sack fumble recovery on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford; then, with one of two Cowboys sacks on quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the Divisional Round loss to the Packers.
The following spring, Lawrence built on that progress.
"You have to work each and every day in the offseason in order to get better," Lawrence said. "I thank (the coaching staff) a lot and I'm glad they helped me out with the offseason program."[embeddedad0]
Lawrence enters 2015 as the projected starter at left defensive end with offseason additions Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory manning the right side. He takes pride as a run defender, an important responsibility at left end. And he says the position switch is smooth because he feels natural pushing off with his dominant right hand from the left side.
Lawrence has put in the work, and he expects sacks to follow.
"Just coming into the regular season (and) not having any sacks, it kind of hurt my pride," Lawrence said. "After the Detroit game I felt like I got it back. It's just all about your will and what you're going to go out there and do."