Maybe the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line won’t be as bad as expected this season. At least there were a few signs of life in the season-opening loss Sunday.
Benson Mayowa had a sack. Terrell McClain, Cedric Thornton and David Irving all had tackles for loss.
Statistically speaking, it was a decent outing, too. The New York Giants had only 18 first downs and 316 total yards. And holding an opponent to 20 points with what’s supposed to be a high-powered offense should typically translate to wins.
“I feel like it was definitely a better start than most probably predicted,” Thornton said. “We all went into the game wanting to win, win every individual battle, win as a team. Our ultimate goal wasn’t completed as we didn’t win the game, but I feel like we won in some situations, we won some possessions during the game. That let us know we can be a dominant team.”
Still, questions remain about the pass rush and the Cowboys continue to search for answers. It’s telling that a guy signed off the streets earlier this week — Ryan Davis — could see meaningful snaps as early as Sunday in Washington.
Not good enough, obviously. We had our spurt in there a little bit, but it’s not good enough. You don’t win like that.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli
That’s how in flux the defensive line remains this season even though it flashed potential in the opener.
Mayowa and cornerback Orlando Scandrick were credited with sacks, but the Cowboys didn’t have another quarterback hit during the game.
“Not good enough, obviously,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “We had our spurt in there a little bit, but it’s not good enough. You don’t win like that.”
Marinelli said the group has to become more consistent throughout the game and he wasn’t happy they appeared to tire as the game wore on. Marinelli runs a rotation among his defensive line, and swapped the four starters for four backups early.
That might change going forward with a more staggered approach to expose fewer holes along the defensive front.
The biggest room for improvement, though, is from the players. Defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford, who is signed to a $45 million contract, admitted he must play better and become more productive.
He had a terrific game. A powerful man. The sky’s the limit for that guy.
Marinelli on defensive tackle Terrell McClain
The same can be said for rookie Maliek Collins, who recorded an assisted tackle and two quarterback pressures in 17 snaps.
However, Marinelli remains committed to his unit and is particularly intrigued by what McClain showed Sunday. McClain has dealt with nagging injuries most of the past two seasons, but is a disruptive force when healthy. He had five tackles, including the tackle for loss, in 30 snaps.
“He had a terrific game,” Marinelli said. “A powerful man. The sky’s the limit for that guy.”
The sky’s probably not the limit for the pass rush as a whole, but there are signs it can be better than expected. After all, the bar isn’t too high considering this is a team that had only 28 sacks in 2014 and 31 a season ago.
They’re already on pace to pass last year’s total by one.
“You have to make the quarterback feel uncomfortable,” coach Jason Garrett said. “There were some positive signs as the game went on. We certainly have to get better in that area.”