The Dallas Cowboys are 5-1 so far this season and exceeding everyone’s expectations. The offense has been explosive and suffocating at the same time while the defense is applying their bend-but-don’t-break defense to perfection. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot have been fantastic revelations, the offense line is playing out of its mind, and the secondary is executing at a high level without their best cornerback from a year ago, Orlando Scandrick.
The Cowboys have showcased a style and game plan that can beat any team on any given day. They can run the ball down an opponent’s throat, make timely throws and play opportunistic defense, but there is one area the Cowboys must improve. Their pass rush.
While the Cowboys dominated the Green Bay Packers, they failed to consistently apply pressure. DeMarcus Lawrence hurt his shoulder, but he wasn’t getting to Aaron Rodgers anyway. Benson Mayowa reverted to constant speed rushes with a power bull rush thrown in occasionally. Jack Crawford barely sniffs the quarterback all game, and the defensive tackles make a much bigger impact against the run. The one bright spot was David Irving who was able to sack Rodgers and force a fumble.
As the Cowboys face more elite quarterbacks, they can’t afford to give them as much time as they have thus far this season. No matter how good their secondary is playing, a great quarterback will carve them up if there is no pressure.
With that in mind, the Cowboys should try to see if they can pry a star pass-rusher from another team. Here are the players they should target.
Cameron Wake would be a temporary solution as he is entering the twilight of his career at 34 years old. Nevertheless, the Dolphins defensive end still has a lot of juice left.
He is an explosive pass-rusher who can bend and flatten to the quarterback as well as anyone in the league. His ability to create a steep angle with his ankles and hips while not losing speed is truly special.
If you don’t think Wake could contribute, watch this play:
That sack would be the single best sack of the Cowboys entire season thus far. Wake’s dip and rip is amazing to watch. That’s what the Cowboys are lacking off the edge, the game-breaking quickness to blow by an offensive tackle and get to the quarterback. Wake can provide that.
If the Cowboys did trade for Wake, they’d get an excellent pass-rush who can apply pressure opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. That’s worth it even if it would only last a season or two.
The only downside to Wake is that he isn’t much of a run defender as he has advanced in age. However, Wake is good for 20 or 25 snaps where he can be a terror coming off the edge for Dallas.
While Wake would be a nice consolation price, Cameron Jordan would be the best pass-rusher the Cowboys could acquire.
The Saints aren’t viable playoff contenders, and they aren’t in a good standing with the cap, so it would make sense that they would listen to offers for their star defensive end.
Jordan would likely come at a high cost, but it would be worth it for Dallas because he can make plays like this:
Jordan has the ability to play either end spot and the under tackle position. He is extremely powerful with surprising quickness and flexibility off the edge. Furthermore, Jordan is excellent against the run as well.
On the Cowboys, Jordan would instantly be the best pass-rusher on the roster, even with a healthy Lawrence, and would revive the Cowboys’ nearly nonexistent pass rush. His versatility to play multiple positions would allow the Cowboys to get their four best pass-rushers on the field no matter what.
The San Francisco 49ers are a mess, and they are likely going to want to acquire picks for next year’s draft in an attempt to recruit more talent. One player they may consider trading is outside linebacker Aaron Lynch.
The 49ers outside linebacker is a young (23 years old) and talented pass-rusher who has shown the ability to produce off the edge as he has accumulated 12.5 sacks in his first two seasons. However, this season he is coming off a four-game suspension, so the Cowboys may be able to snag him for cheaper so he can come make plays like this:
Lynch plays with quite a bit of power and explosiveness, plus he is adept against the run as well. Lynch would be a great addition opposite Lawrence. It would give the Cowboys two competent pass-rusher who can not only impact this year, but also the next decade.
While the Cowboys have two defensive ends with suspensions under their belt, Lynch shouldn’t be discounted because he has one too. If Lynch can stay out of trouble with the league, he has the potential to be a fantastic defensive end. The only question is how he would transition from playing in a two-point stance to playing with his hand in the dirt.
Shane Ray or Shaquil Barrett
The Denver Broncos have an embarrassment of riches on the edge. On top of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, who are the best pass rush duo in the NFL, Denver boasts Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett as well, and the Cowboys should be happy to acquire either player.
Because the Broncos have four competent pass-rushers, they may be willing to deal one of them in an attempt to improve another position or get more draft capital.
Barrett is a former undrafted free agent who has outplayed his draft position. While Ray utilizes speed, Barrett uses technical hands, a great motor and a plethora of pass rush moves to beat offensive tackles. Here is a good example:
Barrett doesn’t have the upside of the other pass-rushers on this list, but he is fundamentally sound, and he would be a key contributor against the run and pass.
Ray, on the other hand, is mostly a pass rush specialist. The former Missouri defensive end has an explosive get off and enough bend to get around the corner to go along with an excellent inside move and a relentless motor.
Here is a great example of Ray’s ability as a pass-rusher:
Ray would be the better choice between him and Barrett because his ceiling as a pass-rusher is much higher. He can win in more ways and he possesses a skill set that the Cowboys don’t have as of yet.