The game of football is won at the line of scrimmage. For the Cowboys, they are led on their defensive line by edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, a former All-Pro who can affect the game by stopping the run and getting after the quarterback, although his sack totals have decreased over the last several seasons.
Linebacker Micah Parsons, who displayed a remarkable knack for getting to the quarterback from the edge as a rookie last season, will be needed more in 2022 with the loss of Randy Gregory. However, when Pro Football Focus ranked defensive lines across the league, the knock on the Cowboys was on the interior, which landed them at No. 21 in tier four.
“The Cowboys’ ranking depends on how you classify Micah Parsons, as he’ll likely split his time between off-ball and edge alignments again in 2022, just as he did during his rookie season. On snaps where Parsons is lined up on the edge opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, that’s one of the best edge tandems in the league.
“Parsons’ 23.4% pass-rush win rate when lined up outside the tackle in 2022 ranked fourth among all players with at least 100 snaps in such alignments, trailing only Maxx Crosby, Rashan Gary and Myles Garrett. Meanwhile, Lawrence ranks tied for second in PFF grade at the position since 2017.
“The defensive tackle position remains the weak point of the unit after combining for a 33.1 PFF run-defense grade in 2021 (30th out of 32 teams). Osa Odighizuwa — who recorded 38 pressures as a rookie last season — could step up in his second season out of UCLA.”
Odighizuwa played a lot during the preseason last year for the Cowboys which likely assisted in him hitting a rookie wall. He’s a versatile player that can play either defensive tackle spot, and his development needs to continue trending upward. Also, guys like veterans Neville Gallimore and Trysten Hill, a bulked-up Chauncey Golston, second-year project Quinton Bohanna, and rookie John Ridgeway will need to step up their game this season.
The Cowboys have capable bodies coming off the edge to get after the quarterback in Lawrence, free-agent signing Dante Fowler, Dorance Armstrong, Tarell Basham, rookie Sam Williams, and Parsons. If the interior of the Cowboys’ defensive line can elevate their game in 2022, it will give their edge rushers a lot of one-on-one opportunities to make plays, which will force double teams on the outside, giving them favorable matchups as well.
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