Position Battles: Defensive Line Pecking Order Is Tough To Figure Out

(Editor's Note: The NFL Draft has come and gone. Now it's time to see what the Cowboys have to work with. The roster is nearly full and that should mean a healthy dose of competition – at all positions. Over the next two weeks, the writers of DallasCowboys.com will focus on each position to find the most intriguing battles as we head into the offseason practices. Today, we continue the series with the defensive line.)

Battle To Watch: It's amazing how much we know about this defensive line, while at the same time knowing nothing at all.

On one hand, we have a pretty good idea of who is going to be playing along the defensive front for the Cowboys in 2017. On the other hand, we have no idea who will start, who will line up in which positions or how many snaps they'll play.

You want to talk about position flex – this unit has it. DeMarcus Lawrence has experience playing both left and right defensive end, as does Benson Mayowa. David Irving moved between left defensive end and defensive tackle. Tyrone Crawford has played extensively at those two spots, as well.

Meanwhile, Cowboys officials have expressed confidence that first-round draft pick Taco Charlton can play both end positions, as well as defensive tackle.

The trio of Maliek Collins, Cedric Thornton and Stephen Paea are likely to remain inside at defensive tackle – though it'll be interesting to see how they pair up and who they work with.

Essentially, the Cowboys have a lot of pieces in place heading into the summer. Now, it's just a matter of determining the best way to use them.

Don't Forget About: It would be hard to forget about Charles Tapper, given how frequently Cowboys officials have mentioned his name this offseason.

The Cowboys drafted Tapper No. 101 overall in last year's draft – ahead of both Dak Prescott and Anthony Brown. Shortly into training camp, though, Tapper was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back, also referred to as a "pars defect." He initially made the final roster but was moved to the injured reserve early in the season. He has yet to play a snap as a Cowboy.

All reports on Tapper's health have been positive since the season ended, and it certainly sounds like the Cowboys expect him to be a factor in his second season. If he plays up to their hopes, he could provide a boost for a group that needs to generate more pressure on the quarterback.

Bubble Watch: As competitive as the defensive line promises to be, it doesn't look like there's a lot of room on the bubble. The Cowboys typically keep anywhere from eight-to-10 defensive linemen on their 53-man roster, and most of those spots appear to be spoken for. It's easy to look at this depth chart and come up with seven or eight players who look likely to make the team.

At the back end of the depth chart, there should be plenty of competition for the final few spots between guys like free agent signee Damontre Moore, as well as seventh-round draft picks Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell.

The team also signed second-year defensive end Lenny Jones to a futures contract in January, and they are expected to sign defensive end Lewis Neal and defensive tackle Woody Baron as undrafted free agents.

Locks:DeMarcus LawrenceTaco CharltonTyrone CrawfordMaliek CollinsCedric ThorntonDavid IrvingBenson Mayowa

Contenders:Charles TapperDamontre MooreStephen PaeaJoey IvieJordan Carrell

Long Shots:Lenny JonesLewis NealWoody Baron

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