GLENDALE, Ariz. – Dorance Armstrong put a fitting exclamation point on this phase of training camp.
Ask anyone who's been at training camp and they'll tell you. The Cowboys' fourth-year edge rusher has been solid throughout the team's time on the West Coast – good, even. But on a team with so many big names, it's easy to lose track of Armstrong, who's just as well known for his special teams prowess as his ability to get to the quarterback.
Armstrong announced himself in this game against the Cardinals, though.
Playing only for the first half, Armstrong was arguably the most disruptive member of the Dallas defense. Needing only a handful of series, he terrorized Colt McCoy to the tune of two sacks, throwing in five tackles for good measure to finish second on the team.
"Being able to start for a preseason game and actually know what I'm doing, and I'm just out there playing," Armstrong said following the game. "All the situations and being aware of everything, it makes me more alert."
It was a new situation for Armstrong, who has played in 46 career games but only started three. DeMarcus Lawrence hasn't mixed into practice yet this preseason, and Tarell Basham is currently nursing an ankle injury. Randy Gregory went home to Texas early to rest a minor foot problem.
That left Armstrong as the most experienced member of the Cowboys' pass rush – by a wide margin -- on Friday night. And given that opportunity, he ran with it.
"It came up on me so fast," he said. "Those two guys, when they're here they bring the energy. I feed off their energy, so now that they're gone I kind of have to step up and bring the energy for the defense – the D-Line, specifically."
The energy almost jumped to another level when Armstrong nearly made the most explosive play of the entire evening. With less than a minute to play in the first half, he broke through the right side of the Cardinals' offensive line and jumped to bat a Chris Streveler pass to the flat.
The ricochet bounced into the air and almost settled into his waiting hands. Had he nabbed it, he'd have been off to the end zone and a 13-10 halftime lead, though it just fell out of his reach.
"He played really well. He almost had a huge play there with the tipped pass that almost went the other way," said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy.
It's a small sample size, especially since Lawrence, Basham and Gregory are all expected back in the lineup soon. But it serves as notice that Armstrong shouldn't be so easily forgotten.
On a defensive line that isn't deep on proven playmakers, Armstrong has an opportunity to be a big part of this rotation. If he can build on these first three weeks of camp – not to mention Friday's performance – maybe it can be a bigger part than anyone expects.