Lawrence spearheads hungry D-line

Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence sacks Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Demarcus Lawrence, who had 14.5 sacks in 2017, is proven and confident. But who will be beside him this season?

By Chad Conine

The opening of training camp this week brought a couple of news items regarding the defensive line. David Irving is not in camp because he’s dealing with off-the-field issues presumably related to his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. On the positive side, Randy Gregory is in camp and apparently ready to play, really for the first time in his career.

The best news for the Cowboys, though, is that Demarcus Lawrence is eager for the follow-up to his fantastic 2017 season. Lawrence posted 14.5 sacks last year, which tied for second in the NFL.

He spoke to the media after Thursday’s practice, revealing tremendous confidence.

“We’re going to put on a big show this year, the old Dallas Cowboys way, just like Mr. Jones likes it,” Lawrence said. “We’re going to ball. We’re just some young hungry dogs. It’s all about just developing that talent together.”

He also revealed the Dallas D-line’s self-appointed nickname.

“We call ourselves Hot Boys for a reason, you know. We’re going to stay on fire all year long. We’re going to get after that quarterback. That’s the main part of our job, to rush and attack.”

One of the key questions for the preseason, and especially the regular season, is who will be in the rotation for the “Hot Boys.”

Alongside Lawrence, Dallas can likely count on veterans Tyrone Crawford and probably Maliek Collins, who will be slowed during preseason as he recovers from off-season foot surgery. It’s a good bet that Gregory and second-year DE Taco Charlton will add value this season.

Then there are a few question marks.

Will Irving be able to contribute this season following his four-game suspension? How will off-season acquisitions Jihad Ward and Kony Ealy fit in? And can fourth-round draft pick Dorance Armstrong crack the rotation and make an impact?