The Dallas Cowboys have jumped out to a 4-2 start in the first chunk of the 2022 NFL season, and much of the credit is due to the team’s stout defense.
Dallas is coming off a 26-17 loss, but the defense did well to limit the Philadelphia Eagles to 26 after quarterback Cooper Rush threw three interceptions. The Cowboys’ defense kept the team in the game, despite it ending in a two-score defeat.
One name that stood out on Sunday, and has stood out all season has been defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. Armstrong has been a sack machine, and a consistent one at that.
However, he is currently hopping around the defensive line as the team’s No. 3 edge rusher, with DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons leading the way. While Parsons isn’t going anywhere in the depth chart, it may be time to swap Lawrence and Armstrong on the depth chart.
Lawrence has had one notable performance all season (three sacks against the New York Giants in Week 3,) but has struggled to make a major impact in the Cowboys’ other five contests in 2022.
As seen below, Armstrong is simply producing at a better rate and is making his case for more game time.
Armstrong Having Career Season, Lawrence Is Not
There’s no question that Lawrence has a premier resume as a two-time Pro Bowler who has 51.5 sacks in his career. But the fact of the matter is that Armstrong is a consistent force right now.
As Pro Football Reference shows, Lawrence has zero sacks in the five games outside of his explosive night against the Giants in Week 3. Outside of those three sacks against New York, the 30-year-old has registered just two other QB hits in the other five games.
It’d be one thing if Lawrence was consistently getting to the quarterback without sacks, but he’s not. Meanwhile, Armstrong has earned a sack in four of six games, adding his fifth sack on the season against the Eagles.
The key thing is that Armstrong is beating Lawrence with fewer opportunities: Armstrong has played 214 snaps this season (52% of the defense’s snaps) to Lawrence’s 254 snaps (64%).
That may not seem like a major difference, but Armstrong is averaging a sack every 42.8 snaps. If he was receiving Lawrence’s number of snap counts, it’s not crazy to think he’d have at least one more sack, if not more.
Cowboys Have to Balance Edge Rush
With Parsons playing all over the field, Armstrong and Lawrence will be lined up together fairly often, no matter who is the “starter.” What the Cowboys need to consider is flipping the duo’s snap count.
This isn’t a call for Dallas to remove Lawrence from the equation, just ensure that Armstrong is getting more chances. As Spotrac shows, the Cowboys still have to pay Lawrence $16 million this season, and there is no world where he doesn’t play a lot of snaps.
But Armstrong has earned the right to start over Lawrence on the strong end. Dallas may mix up their pass-rushing group often, but Armstrong is the other consistently productive edge rusher other than Parsons.
Plus, there’s reason to think keeping Lawrence even fresher will pay dividends. The former second-round pick is now 30 years old, while Armstrong has turned 25 only recently.