Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has a chance to join an exclusive fraternity this season – the 20-sack club.
It’s opened its doors to only 10 players since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
Lawrence leads the NFL with 13.5 sacks going into the stretch run. He’s on pace to finish with 18 sacks, but has gone through four-game stretches where the 20-sack mark isn’t unfathomable.
But that milestone isn’t on Lawrence’s mind. At least not that he cares to share publicly.
“I pride myself on sacking the quarterback and harassing him all day,” Lawrence told the Star-Telegram. “I didn’t set a goal for myself this year ‘cause I didn’t want to put no limit on myself.
“My main thing is just keep harassing the quarterback and getting after him and come out with a win. You can get all the sacks in the world, but if you’re team isn’t winning, then what’s the point? So that’s how I feel.”
It’d still be quite a feat for a guy who started the season with nine career sacks in three seasons. Lawrence has been plagued by injuries early on in his career, but has finally emerged as an elite pass rusher this season.
Lawrence opened the season by getting 7.5 sacks in the first four games. If he does that to end the season, not only will he join the 20-sack club, he’ll also set the franchise record for sacks.
Longtime great DeMarcus Ware owns the record with his 20-sack season in 2008. The most recent players to reach the 20-sack mark were Kansas City’s Justin Houston with 22 and Houston’s J.J. Watt with 20.5 in 2014.
Watt is the only player who has accomplished the feat twice in his career. Others on the list include Hall of Famers Michael Strahan, who owns the NFL single-season record with 22.5, Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas and Chris Doleman. Jared Allen and Mark Gastineau are also in the club.
Asked if Lawrence had a chance at it, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli smiled and said: “Fourteen-and-a-half is the one he has to aim for. The next one.”
Lawrence wouldn’t disagree with that statement and has to feel good about his chances of getting closer this weekend against the New York Giants.
Lawrence had 1.5 sacks against the Giants in the season opener, and the Giants are largely viewed as having one of the most suspect offensive lines in the league.
But Lawrence doesn’t take any sack for granted.
“You never can go into the NFL looking down on a team,” Lawrence said. “Everybody in the NFL is good. That’s how I feel about it. If you slack off, this dude is going to bury you.
“You can’t show no mercy. So, what, they’re having problems? We have to go out and do our job.”
That’s the mindset that has turned Lawrence into one of the top pass rushers this season. He went through a two-game drought without a sack before notching a couple in the previous game against the Washington Redskins.
Opponents have lost 138 yards because of Lawrence’s 13.5 sacks, and he has a team-leading 34 quarterback pressures. Along with his sacks, Lawrence has six tackles for loss, which is the third-most on the team.
“He keeps playing hard and he keeps hustling and he knows something good will happen if I do that,” Marinelli said. “He’s resilient like that. There’s a lot about the sacks, but how he plays the run and how he hustles, that’s my favorite part of his game still. It’s every week.
“He sets a great tempo for us like that. He’s just stays after it, he just keeps going.”
Maybe all the way to the 20-sack club.