The defensive line for the Dallas Cowboys struggled greatly last season, and it will now have to deal with key losses as Demarcus Lawrence looks to prove himself.
The Dallas Cowboys defense finished as the worst in the NFL last season, and it may be even worse this season.
The Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware and lost Jason Hatcher to free agency, and their pass rush struggled enough as it was with them on the team. They finished tied for 25th in sacks with just 34, and 11 of those were recorded by Hatcher.
George Selvie and Demarcus Lawrence are projected to start at defensive end. Selvie performed adequately as a rotational end and provided a solid pass-rushing presence, but he was not a game changer by any means.
Lawrence was selected in the second round of the draft out of Boise State, where he recorded 20 sacks and 34 tackles for loss over his last two seasons. Although it will be difficult for him to replace Ware and Hatcher’s production, he has already set a goal for himself to reach 10 sacks in his rookie season.
At defensive tackle, Henry Melton will start after signing a one-year deal with a club option for three more years. Melton sat out last season with a torn ACL, but he notched six sacks in each of his last two seasons with the Bears.
Terrell McClain is expected to be the other starting defensive tackle in Dallas, but Tyrone Crawford and Nick Hayden will also battle for playing time.
Hayden performed abysmally last season though, so it will be difficult for him to regain the coaching staff’s trust. Crawford has the edge over him because of his versatility.
Jeremy Mincey will be a key backup at defensive end, and he will receive even more playing time since Anthony Spencer is expected to possibly begin the regular season on PUP. Ben Gardner will also receive some snaps at defensive end.
At defensive tackle, Ben Bass and Ken Bishop will be the key reserves. Bishop was selected in the sixth round of the draft, and he can draw double teams while stuffing the run. However, Bishop’s pass-rushing skills are limited. Bass has not seen a lot of action, but he will compete with undrafted free agent Davon Coleman for what is likely the final roster spot.
Coleman shined in his final season at Arizona State with 8.5 sacks, but he was overshadowed by Carl Bradford and Will Sutton.
The Cowboys are expected to carry nine defensive linemen, but they may carry 10. Regardless of how many make the team, the defensive line will need to step up big with holes to fill plus the pressing need for a defensive turnaround in Dallas.