DALLAS – The Cowboys’ defensive line is already stealing headlines. Aldon Smith was reinstated after a four-year absence and Dallas is taking a controversial second chance on the once-dominant pass rusher. The position group has experienced the most turnover on the roster this season and, to some, is considered a weakness.
Not to others.
Nine-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware believes the talent will shine in new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s hybrid scheme.
“[Rod Marinelli’s scheme was] more about coverage and the four guys getting to the quarterback,” Ware told USA Today. “Now you’ve got a whole new person coming in and the 3-4 defense is all predicated on getting pressure, pushing the pocket up the middle, stopping the run, bringing the outside linebackers to create those turnovers.”
The Cowboys will maintain a 4-3 base with strategic changes for opponents that include 3-4 looks. This hybrid scheme creates better potential for freedom and flexibility for DeMarcus Lawrence, Smith and Randy Gregory (if the NFL reinstates him).
“That’s why DeMarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory can excel in this defense, because you might get a tight end,” Ware continued. “You might have to be on a running back because there’s five guys rushing now instead of four, but they can interchange those guys. And that’s what makes it hard on those offenses because they can’t block you.”
Can you imagine a physically and mentally healthy 30-year-old Smith in this opportunity? Before his suspensions derailed his career, Smith totaled 33.5 sacks in his first two seasons, the most in league history for a player in his first two seasons.
The freedom could also lead to more production from Lawrence, whose stats dipped in 2019. Lawrence is already making moves to prepare to excel under Nolan.
“With this hybrid-type defense and talking to DeMarcus Lawrence, he’s ready too,'' Ware said, relaying a question from Tank.
‘Hey, DeMarcus can you maybe come by and show me how to stand up?’
"That made me smile,'' Ware said. "I’ll teach him a little bit of the outside linebacker position.”
Ware’s positive opinion is just another view of optimism for the 2020 Dallas Cowboys, who believe they aren't just re-tooling the D-line - they're re-loading it.