Sullivan: Lawrence Deserves Defensive Player of the Year, More Thoughts

Some of the thoughts that run through an oversized, bald head:

  • Have seen multiple national writers and/or voters say they voted for someone not named DeMarcus Lawrence for Defensive Player of the Year because he faded the last month of the season. This is so ridiculously off base and a travesty of justice. Look, I’m not an idiot. I get how it works with most awards. Beat writers don’t have the time or energy to follow any team besides the one they cover, thus they look at stats. And the basic stats most use to define the success of pass rushers are sacks, and “Tank” tallied one in the final four games.
  • However, minus David Irving for each of those games, his pressures and QB hits were in line with the first 12 games of the season. Also, seven of his eight tackles against the Giants, Raiders and Seahawks were on runs. He’s the total package, every play. The first series against Philadelphia, he battered one pass and registered two other pressures. His stat line by game’s end didn’t look impressive – actually, there was no stat line, zero tackles, zero sacks – but he graded as high as any defensive player on the field that afternoon.
  • Lawrence finished the season with nearly five QB pressures per game, a ridiculous total considering the team’s second-best pass rusher, Irving, played just half the games and roughly a third of the snaps. Lawrence is also still just 25 years young. More and more, I am thinking that the Cowboys don’t put the franchise tag on him but save some cap space and sign him long term. There is 0.0 percent chance he’s not returning, make no mistake. I think that’s also about the chance of allowing Irving to walk via a second-round tender.
  • This could be a top-five defense next season. Yeah, needs a little help at linebacker, but the Cowboys finished eighth in total defense and tied for first with 26 forced fumbles this season. Jaylon Smith is only going to improve, and he was pretty darn impressive over the second half of this year. The secondary with a trio of rookies were better than the veteran group of a season ago. Oh, and really under the radar, Tyrone Crawford enjoyed the best season of his career with 33 QB hurries, four sacks, two deflected passes and a forced fumble. Great news that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is staying, too.
  • The 2011 New York Giants finished 9-7 and won that season’s Super Bowl. A year previous, the Packers went 10-6 and raised the Lombardi Trophy. Buffalo and Tennessee went 9-7 this year and qualified for the postseason. The Cowboys went 9-7 and, honestly, judging from the majority of the media and fan base, they should fire every employee, release or trade every player and start from scratch. Some make it sound like the Browns have a better shot at winning a division title next season.
  • I get it. This team was positioned to make the playoffs and didn’t. That’s disappointing, but it’s not worth starting over. Tweak here, tweak to the coaching staff, sign a mid-range free agent or two, have a strong draft, and barring the unforeseen, this team should be the co-favorites to win the NFC East with Philly in 2018.

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  • Also, I know I spend way too much time defending Jason Garrett. It’s kind of like politics. No one is going to change their mind based on someone else’s opinion, but here goes: Since he took over midway through the 2010 season, the only teams to win more games than the Cowboys, who are 67-53, are Baltimore, Atlanta, New Orleans, Denver, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and New England. That means the Cowboys are ninth among 32 NFL teams in that stretch. That means 25 percent of the league has won more games, and it’s worth noting the Ravens have just one more win, the Falcons and Saints two. Quite easily, by the end of next season, Dallas could rank sixth over an eight-and-a-half year stretch among the entire league. Yes, they need to win more playoff games, but you can’t fire a coach winning that many games. Just doesn’t make sense.
  • Oh, since I did the research, the only teams to have one or zero losing seasons since Garrett took over as head coach are Pittsburgh, New England, Baltimore, Denver, Green Bay, Seattle and, yes, Dallas.
  • Could not be happier that Everson Walls is finally, after 19 years of eligibility, a Hall of Fame finalist. And I think, having spoken to multiple voters, he has a legitimate chance. Think Ray Lewis and Randy Moss are locks, Terrell Owens should be, and while Brian Urlacher is going to make it quickly, not sure he’s a first-ballot slam dunk. Also worth noting for the future, with Terrell Davis and Kenny Easley being voted in last season, both with short careers and four-year peaks, Jimmy Johnson has never had a better chance. Yes, he just coached nine NFL seasons, but Bill Walsh and Vince Lombardi coached only 10 each.
  • As for this season’s team awards: Lawrence is an easy choice for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Give me Travis Frederick and Zack Martin for co-Offensive Players of the Year, just impossible to go with one over the other. Rod Smith takes Offensive Most Improved Player, and give me Jeff Heath on defense, who looks like he could be one of the starting safeties for the foreseeable future.
  • Have written this many times the last three years, but I just do not understand why Brice Butler doesn’t see more targets. I honestly have thought he should have been starting the last two years. He has averaged nearly 19 yards a catch over his time with the Cowboys. And six touchdowns the last two years despite just 31 receptions. Super confusing about the lack of chances.
  • I think it would benefit Jason Witten if he didn’t play every snap next season. Now, that’s a lot easier said than done because of his competitiveness. Just think he could be more valuable as a receiver if he didn’t have all the run blocking responsibilities. Think Tony Gonzalez, who caught 93 and 83 passes at 36 and 37 years old, respectively, and I promise he didn’t block a single defender either of those seasons. Pass-catching wise, Witten can still catch the ball with any tight end in the league.
  • Looking back on my preseason predictions, I had Lawrence with 8.5 sacks, Irving with 6.0 and Taco Charlton with 5.5. Also, Jaylon Smith with 75 tackles, which I was ridiculed for. He finished with 81. I’ll stick with my Super Bowl winner from the preseason, too, Steelers over the Vikings.

Follow Jeff Sullivan on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at jsullivan@dallascowboys.net.

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