The Cowboys saw multiple defenders get recognized for their great play in 2021. Linebacker Micah Parsons won Defensive Rookie of the Year and was named a first-team All-Pro after terrorizing the NFL with 13 sacks. Cornerback Trevon Diggs also received first-team All-Pro honors after his league-leading 11 interceptions.

Despite having multiple Pro Bowl seasons and an All-Pro nod on his resume, pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence hasn’t gotten the same respect over the last years, until now. Pro Football Focus put out a piece on Thursday and listed the most underrated player from each team, and Lawrence was the selection for the Cowboys.

PFF’s Sam Monson on why Lawrence fit the criteria:

“Lawrence is widely regarded as an excellent player, but he doesn’t get the full recognition he deserves because his high pressure totals haven’t resulted in the usual number of sacks. League-wide, around 15% of pressures convert into sacks, but that number has been just 12.3% for Lawrence over the past three years, and 11.1% in 2021. Generally, there is little in the way of a “skill” in finishing pressures and getting to the quarterback. Rather, that data point is more heavily driven by variance and other factors. Effectively, Lawrence has been unlucky when it comes to sacks over the past few seasons, but before that, he had back-to-back years with 13 or more sacks. His lowest PFF grade in the past five seasons is 86.2.”

Lawrence was a monster getting to the quarterback in 2017 and 2018. He posted 25 sacks over that span for the Cowboys and established himself as one of the league’s best pass rushers.

This led to Lawrence signing a five-year, $105 million contract with $65 million in guaranteed dollars in 2019. Lawrence has only registered 14.5 sacks over the past three seasons and considering how causal observers of the NFL value sacks so much, he’s not mentioned with the best pass rushers anymore.

When judging a defensive end, the measuring stick has to go beyond sacks. Being solid against the run is the first job of any defensive lineman, and Lawrence consistently does that for the Cowboys. By setting the edge, Lawrence forces running plays back inside for interior defensive linemen and linebackers which can create long distances for offenses to keep the chains moving.

The attention that Lawrence gets also helps other pass rushers on the Cowboys. He often sees double teams which can create a lot of one-on-one opportunities for those who play opposite him.

In 2019, Robert Quinn had 11.5 sacks in his only season with the Cowboys thanks to teams having to gameplan for Lawrence. Randy Gregory left for the Denver Broncos in free agency, but a huge reason for his 15.5 sacks over his last three seasons is because of Lawrence and the attention he gets.

Versatility is another aspect of Lawrence’s game that doesn’t get enough credit. He can slide inside and stop the run while getting pressure on the quarterback as well which gives defensive coordinator Dan Quinn even options to play with when it comes to putting together different looks.

Lawrence may never reach double-digit sacks again in his career, although he’s still highly capable. However, the dirty work he does in the run game for the Cowboys mixed in with his versatility and ability to still get pressure when needed make him one of the NFL’s most complete defensive linemen.

Feature image via Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK