Commanders: Ranking the NFC East defensive lines for 2022
By Jonathan Eig
3. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas is in the process of rebuilding an entire defense that was truly awful a few short years ago. In 2021, Dallas saw how one extraordinary talent can accomplish a good deal of that transformation, but he plays a different position, so we won’t be talking about him today.
On the defensive line, Dallas still has some major question marks. Randy Gregory and Brent Urban are gone. A couple of rookie draft picks – Sam Williams and John Ridgeway – have arrived to replace them. But if you’re Dallas, you’re really only concerned with one returning player.
DeMarcus Lawrence is Dallas’ one elite lineman. He is among the most disruptive pass rushers in the league. Lawrence missed almost all of 2021 with a broken foot, but he was able to return by the end of the season. He is fully healed and, entering his ninth season, still looks to have plenty in the tank.
Dallas needs for Lawrence to come up big, because they really have average talent across the rest of the line. Neville Gallimore and Osa Odighizuwa form a mediocre interior, and none of the players behind them, with the possible exception of the unproven Ridgeway, inspire great confidence. Dorrance Armstrong is a decent bookend for Lawrence, and Dallas is hopeful that Williams, and perennially disappointing free agent Dante Fowler Jr can provide some additional edge pressure.
But up front, it pretty much all comes down to Lawrence – and that other guy who we won’t discuss until we come to the linebackers, even though he plays wherever he wants to.