FRISCO, Texas – The hunt for positives can be challenging at this point in the season, but they can be found.
And if one is looking for a silver lining about this Dallas defense, here's one place to start: after a bumpy September, arguably their best defensive player is rounding into more familiar form heading into the second half of the season.
"Yeah, I feel like my knee is progressing real well, and when you're out there on the field you're trying to give it your all," said DeMarcus Lawrence on Thursday.
It's not surprising to hear that Lawrence's injured knee is feeling better, because that seems to be showing on the field. The Cowboys' Pro Bowl pass rusher is coming off arguably his best game of the season, after he tallied four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble on Sunday night in Philadelphia.
"I feel like we're taking some big huge steps," Lawrence said. "Just understanding what coach wants out of us, understanding our plays and understanding each other and being able to bond a little more with each other and get after it."
It's not just Philadelphia, though. Obviously, the results haven't been what the Cowboys would prefer, but Lawrence is starting to string together some positive performances. After not notching a single sack in the first month of the season, he has three in his last four games to go along with 17 tackles.
It's also worth noting that he leads the team in pressures, with his 21 on the season sitting just in front of Aldon Smith's 18.
That doesn't do anything to change the Cowboys' 2-6 record, or some of the abysmal defensive performances they have put on tape. At the very least, though, perhaps it offers hope that Lawrence can return to the level of play that helped him secure the five-year, $103 million contract he signed last year.
Fair or not, that contract is a big reason why Lawrence has been a lightning rod for criticism recently, though he said he does his best to block out that noise.
"I mean one thing about me, I don't really even listen to criticism -- or really the news," he said. "It can dilute your mind and have you focusing on bad stuff when you're really supposed to be focusing on the good and how to get better."
One game is not a trend. Another solid performance against a strong opponent could go a long way in determining whether the Cowboys are moving in the right direction. And if his positive performances are an indicator, Lawrence will hopefully be right in the middle of it.