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Front Office Confident Current Pass Rush Can "Hold The Fort" If Need Be

IRVING, Texas – Strictly speaking, the Cowboys added a pass rusher on the second day of the 2016 NFL Draft, as they selected a three-technique defensive tackle in Maliek Collins.

In talking to team officials after Friday's activities, though, it was hard not to note a sense of skepticism about the Cowboys' pass rush heading into the season. After all, with 66 picks coming off the board over the course of the evening, they did not add an impact edge rusher to their roster.

"We were looking at ends, to be honest with you – or an end, I won't say which one," said Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones.

It's not hard to make a guess. The evening started out with two of the best remaining pass rushers, Emmanuel Ogbah and Kevin Dodd, going off the board immediately. After briefly considering a trade, Dallas made the high-risk, high-reward selection of injured linebacker Jaylon Smith.

They didn't ignore the pass rush twice, as Collins joins the roster as an interior lineman that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett thinks can make a push for playing time as a pass rushing, three-technique defensive tackle.

"He's a quick, explosive player who we think has tremendous upside to disrupt the passing game," Garrett said. "We think he has a chance to be a good run defender – first and second down run defender – but also someone who penetrates and is a disruptive force when the other team is trying to throw the football."

Despite that, it raises some interesting questions – which have been repeated ad nauseam. Both DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are facing four-game suspensions to start the season, and Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones closed the door on the possibility of bringing back Greg Hardy late on Friday night.

With all of that in mind, who will the Cowboys employ as their edge rushers, at least in the early going of the season?

"We'll just have to see what's the best way to put our line together for the first part of the season, knowing that we're going to probably get some help as we go," Stephen Jones said.

That's a valid point, to be fair. Lawrence and Gregory are slated to return after four games, and it would be rash to make a four-year decision based on a one-month suspension. But the Cowboys still have to figure out who will rush the passer from a hodge-podge of versatile yet inexperienced options.

"We have some veteran players. We have some position flex," Garrett said. "Now you start putting the piece of the puzzle together and now you say, 'Ok. We see this guy as this. Pure evaluation. This is how he would fit into our team. This is the role he would play. This is how we would move the pieces around.' So you have all those discussions, very thorough discussions. I think the flexibility and the versatility of those guys on the defensive front allows us to make a decision like this."

Tyrone Crawford has experience playing at both end and tackle, as do Jack Crawford and David Irving. The front office also signed restricted free agent Benson Mayowa to give them an extra edge rusher. As Stephen Jones pointed out, they've gotten by in recent seasons with effort from the likes of Jeremy Mincey and George Selvie.

"Obviously we had a good year two years ago with Mincey and Selvie, who you maybe might not put at the top of right ends in the world, but you can certainly get by. And you can hold the fort," he said.

None of this is to say the Cowboys are done adding talent. They have six more picks to make before the weekend is out. But in the event that those picks don't help the pass rush, they sound confident they can get by.


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