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Top 10: Ranking Best Pass Rushers On Cowboys' 2014 Tilt


IRVING, Texas – A year ago, the jury was still out about both of the Cowboys' offensive tackles. Tyron Smith had yet to prove he was a legitimate Top 10 pick and Doug Free struggled to the point where his salary was sliced in half.

Yet, 2013 was a bounce back year for Free, who looked more than comfortable on the right side. And Smith emerged as one of the best tackles in the game, earning his first Pro Bowl trip.

That's the good news for the Cowboys, who will face several top-notch pass rushers this year.

The guys at – Rowan Kavner, David Helman, Bryan Broaddus and Nick Eatman – composed the list of opposing pass-rushers, pinpointing only the 13 opponents on the schedule and of course.   

Remember, this is the best pass-rushers, not the best defense, otherwise Seattle would certainly rank atop the list. The Seahawks have several top rushers like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, but individually, Seattle's dominating crew is not represented here.

Honorable Mention – Chris Long –Just missed the list, basically because some of his production likely stems from his teammate, who is one of the best in the game. Still, it says something to benefit from that and Long has done that and more. He's had at least 8.5 sacks in each of the last four years.

10. John Abraham – This guy should've slowed down by now but he just keeps producing. Entering his 15th season, Abraham is one of the key rushers for a talented Cardinals defense. In the last seven years, he's missed just two games and has five double-digit sack seasons, including 11.5 last year.

Tyron Smith and Doug Free are coming off arguably the best seasons of their career. Here's a look at the Top 10 pass rushers they'll face this upcoming season.

9. Jadaveon Clowney – While the No. 1 overall pick might seem to be rather low on this list, let's not forget guys like Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Cole and all of the Seattle guys aren't even on this list. Clowney will probably be higher once he gets some games under his belt, especially if he can work well with J.J. Watt. He could be the next pass-rushing star to take over the league, but without a career sack, it's hard for him to be any higher than this. 

8. Brian Orakpo – When healthy, he's always right there around double-digits. He had 10 last season and always seems to give the Cowboys fits. He teams up well with Kerrigan on the other side. Look for the Redskins to have another aggressive defense with Orakpo leading the charge. 

7.  Cameron Jordan– The knock on 3-4 defensive ends have always been that they don't rush the passer that well. A guy down in Houston has changed that theory but Jordan is doing the same in New Orleans. Rob Ryan got a great year out of Jordan with 12.5 sacks from a spot that generally faces many double-teams. Jordan has played every game of his three-year career. 

6. Jason Pierre-Paul– In three of his four pro seasons, Pierre-Paul has totaled just 13 sacks. In the other year, he had 16.5 and was one of the best defensive players in the game in leading his team to the Super Bowl title. So which JPP are the Giants going to get this year? He had just two sacks last season in an injury-riddled 2013 campaign. But like the entire Giants team, a bounce-back year is expected for Pierre-Paul, whose versatility still makes him a tough matchup for any team. He's also had a history of playing well against these Cowboys.  

5. Jared Allen – Coming off seven straight double-digit sack seasons, we're about to find out if Allen can keep it up in Chicago, where he signed this offseason in free agency. He's been productive for both the Chiefs and Vikings and doesn't show any real signs of slowing down. Allen hasn't missed a game or start in six years so expect him to be right in the action come Dec. 4 in Chicago.

4. Robert Mathis – Like Allen and Abraham, Mathis keeps on producing as well, despite his 12 years in the league. He will serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performing-enhancing drugs, but it certainly won't affect the Cowboys' game on Dec. 21. Mathis was the runner-up for the league's Defensive Player of the Year award with 19.5 sacks, to go along with a whopping 10 forced fumbles. 

3. Aldon Smith – Unlike Mathis, Smith's availability for the Cowboys' game could be in question. He might be facing a league suspension for his off-the-field issues, which could certainly include the Week 1 matchup against Dallas. Regardless of his issues, Smith is a beast when it comes to rushing the passer. While his 19.5 sacks in 2012 is impressive, getting eight sacks last year in only 11 games is pretty strong as well.  If he's there, he'll make that 49ers defense even stronger. [embedded_ad]

2. Robert Quinn – Here's a tricky one from the Cowboys' standpoint. Quinn dominated most of the league last year with his 19 sacks but he didn't do much against Dallas and really never has. Obviously he's one of the league's best pass rushers and someone Tyron Smith and Doug Free will be geared up for. It's likely Quinn will be eager to make his mark against the Cowboys and there's probably something about rushing that passer at home in the dome that will make him even tougher.    1. J.J. Watt – He took over the league two years ago with 20.5 sacks and even though it dipped to just 10.5 last year, Watt is still considered one of the toughest players to block. Now you pair him up with Clowney and the Texans won't be viewed as that 2-14 team anymore. Watt is so disruptive in the run game, rushing the passer and even deflecting passes, which he's done 23 times the last two years. In two straight games, the Cowboys will likely face the best two 3-4 ends in Jordan with New Orleans, followed up by Watt with the Texans.

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