With the offseason practices – both OTAs and minicamps – all done for the Cowboys this offseason, there is a lengthy break between now and the start of training camp, which begins July 24 in Oxnard.
But that doesn't mean there aren't questions on the table at each position. Each day, we will take a deep dive into each spot on the field, analyzing the top battles, the key players and some bold predictions. Today, we continue with the edge rushers and the defensive end position.
What needs to go right: All told, this is one of the best EDGE units in the league and that's because so much continues to go right. Micah Parsons is a Hall of Fame talent, DeMarcus Lawrence is still one of the best in the league, Dorance Armstrong has reached prime form; and add in quality free agency grabs like Dante Fowler and draft finds like Sam Williams and, seriously, is anything going wrong? All the unit needs to do is keep pouring kerosene on the fire.
Biggest question: The more you look at the situation at the edges in Dallas, the more you're left wondering who. That's not an incomplete sentence, by the way. The fact is there is so much talent at the position that the challenge boils down to who, outside of Parsons and Lawrence, will get what percentage of reps. Quinn has a tsunami of pass rushers to unleash, and it'll be interesting to see how he makes sure everyone eats.
Battle to Watch: I'm truly locked in on seeing how much Williams can do to glean reps away from Fowler in Year 2. The latter has been resurgent in his reunion with Quinn, leading to a second contract, but Williams' skill set simply can't be denied or minimized. I believe Armstrong has earned the right to be viewed as the immediate backup to Lawrence, but the battle on the right side of the D-line "behind" Parsons will be a powder keg.
Bold Prediction: Stick with me on this one: Sam Williams has a 10-sack season, and not just because he set that as his goal for 2023, but because he's already capable of it — based upon the efficiency of his production as a rookie in 2022. Williams rushes the passer like a bull in a china shop, and I wholeheartedly believe he has a breakout season if given enough reps to do so.
Biggest Challenge: Consistency is going to be the name of the game. They've now established themselves in rarefied air, but here are some of the QBs they're up against in 2023: Daniel Jones, Kyler Murray, Brock Purdy, Aaron Rodgers, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen. That's a lot of either big arms and/or mobility, and the last four names can absolutely wreck games. Success will demand they make life tough for the QB, or the secondary (talented as they are) will have both hands full.
Key Stat: The pass rush in Dallas amassed 54 sacks last season, third-most in the NFL and only one sack away from being tied with the 49ers (55) for second place behind the Eagles. The team's EDGE rush unit also produced 10 of the team's 22 total forced fumbles, as the Cowboys defense finished with the highest tally of both forced fumbles, fumble recoveries (17) and fumbles recovered for touchdown (3) in the entire league.
Battle Lines Position Series: