Cowboys use committee approach to replace DeMarcus Lawrence

Posted Wednesday, Jul. 30, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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The Dallas Cowboys have lost two right ends named DeMarcus in four months.

Second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence, drafted to help fill the void in the wake of DeMarcus Ware’s off-season departure, fractured his foot in Tuesday’s practice. He flew back to Dallas, where he will undergo surgery Thursday.

Lawrence will miss 8-12 weeks with the injury.

It was yet another blow to a defensive line that used 21 players last season.

“The next man up,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “We’ve got some guys who can come in and still rush over there.”

The Cowboys will take a committee approach at the position. Jeremy Mincey, signed as a free agent in the off-season, was working with the first team before Lawrence’s injury. Martez Wilson moves from the third team to the second team, and Marinelli said the Cowboys would use starting strongside linebacker Kyle Wilber on passing downs.

“It’s a great opportunity to show the world what I’m capable of,” said Mincey, who has 40 career starts and 20 sacks. “If you look back in Jacksonville, I made some plays. I just didn’t get the exposure. Smaller market. But now I’ve got the exposure.

“I wish I was still about 24, playing for Dallas, but I can make it happen at 30, and I’m going to come out here and do everything Coach wants me to do, be the best I can be, help lead these young guys and make them believers.

“One thing about Dallas, they always had all the talent in the world. You can have all the talent in the world, but the best team doesn’t always win. You’ve got to come together, and you’ve got to all be on the same page, and you’ve got to make it happen.

“It’s all about believing. We’ve got a lot of heart and a lot of work ethic and a lot of guys that believe anything’s possible. And we definitely have the ability on this team.”

The Cowboys recorded only 34 sacks last season and 17 of those came from Ware and Jason Hatcher, both of whom left in the off-season. Tackle Henry Melton, coming off knee surgery that cut his 2013 season short, is the biggest name on the defensive line after signing as a free agent.

Otherwise, it’s a bunch of Georges, Bens and Nicks, though the Cowboys hope end Anthony Spencer returns from microfracture surgery and tackle Josh Brent from jail time.

“It’s obviously a spot that had major turnover for us,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “It’s certainly a place where we’ve had Pro Bowl-type great players in the past, and we certainly don’t have that now.

“We don’t have a cornerstone guy, where the other team breaks the huddle and says, ‘Oh, my gosh, where’s Ware? Where’s Hatcher?’ We probably don’t have that guy right now. Now Melton could be, if he gets back to what he was doing in Chicago.”

The Cowboys will look outside the organization for help. Larry English, the 16th overall pick in 2009, visited with the Cowboys recently. But he still is rehabbing from a torn biceps injury and not yet ready to practice.

“We have to always have our eyes out on improving that defensive line,” Jones said. “We’ll continue to do it. With this injury, it’ll probably even push us a little more to maybe bring another guy in since DeMarcus is not going to be able to practice for probably eight weeks.

“The good news about DeMarcus is when you’ve been through what we’ve been through with injuries, the glass is half full. He’s hopefully going to miss only a couple of games and have the rest of the season. It could have been worse.”

In-house options

Here are some of the team’s in-house options to replace DeMarcus Lawrence at right defensive end in what likely will be a committee approach:

Jeremy Mincey: Mincey, signed as a free agent in the off-season, has made 40 career starts. He was taking reps with the first team before Lawrence’s injury, but he has only 20 sacks in six seasons.

Martez Wilson: He has played for three teams in three seasons, signing with the Cowboys late last season. Wilson has five career sacks.

Kyle Wilber: The third-year veteran will start at strongside linebacker, but he could be used at right defensive end on pass-rushing downs. He has two career sacks.

George Selvie: The left defensive end starter could be an effective right defensive end, but the Cowboys prefer not to move him.

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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