Dallas Cowboys

Governor's call: Why the Cowboys were thrilled Dorance Armstrong fell to them

Dallas Cowboys select Connor Williams

Texas offensive lineman and former Coppell standout Connor Williams was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 50th overall pick on Friday.
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Texas offensive lineman and former Coppell standout Connor Williams was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 50th overall pick on Friday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys to stay put on Friday.

The organization contemplated moving back into Round 3 for a pass rusher they coveted, but Abbott felt they shouldn’t pull the trigger.

Jones thanked the governor on Saturday.

The player the Cowboys wanted – Kansas pass rusher Dorance Armstrong Jr. – fell to them in the fourth round. In the end, the Cowboys kept their picks and got their guy without making a move.

"The governor ordered it by his governorship to stay put [Friday]," Jones said, smiling. "Do not trade the fourth with the three and go up. So, he called after we made this pick, and we both agreed that he exercised his right of eminent domain, or whatever he does."

Armstrong, a Houston native, felt the Cowboys "made a good decision in getting me."

This is a guy who put up impressive numbers in 2016 before his production fell off in 2017.

Armstrong had 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in 2016, including a dominant showing in Kansas’ upset victory over Texas. In 2017, though, he regressed from a production standpoint with just 1.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss.

The Cowboys certainly believe Armstrong is more of the 2016 player than the 2017 player.

"Big discussion in the room," Stephen Jones said. "They had injuries there at Kansas and converted to a 3-4 early in the season because of injuries. I think he put on some weight and kept that weight on and really felt like that was in the best interest of the team. He’s an ultimate team guy who is just what we’re looking for and matches up with what Rod [Marinelli] is all about.

Before Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch had any idea where he would be drafted, Star-Telegram reporter Lena Blietz asked him and Boise State coach Bryan Harsin about how they would react if the Cowboys selected him.

"We did watch quite a bit of the 2016 tape, and it’s impressive. We just think he really brings some unique pass rushing skills. ... He’s an A-plus guy in terms of his football character. I think we’re going to have a heck of a football player here."

Armstrong is 6-foot-4, 257 pounds and figures to step into the Cowboys’ defensive line rotation. This is a team that is always looking for pass rush help and saw Benson Mayowa depart in free agency.

As stated, Armstrong flashed in college but didn’t impress at the Combine. Armstrong ranked among the slowest pass rushers in the 40-yard dash at 4.87 seconds and had unimpressive numbers in the 225-bench press (20 reps) and vertical jump (30 inches).

But he did well in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.

The Cowboys are more than OK with his Combine numbers, though, and are fortunate that is the reason he slid to them with the 116th overall pick. When the Cowboys look at Armstrong, they see a player with unique bend coming off the edge instead of worrying about what he might have tested at the Combine.

"When he bends from there to the quarterback, it's not the speed you see in his 40-yard time. It's a burst," Jerry Jones said. "You're not looking at the 40-yard speed when you see his bend and you see burst for the quarterback. So those nuances and you see them time after time and looking at his highlight tapes.

"He has natural skills at pass rusher and has the ability that when he really breaks down and bends, that burst toward the quarterback is noteworthy."

Armstrong pointed to playing out of position and seeing more attention as reasons for his decline in numbers last season. He also said he missed on opportunities at times last season.

But the Cowboys liked what they saw on tape with Armstrong consistently playing with a high motor every down.

"They liked my motor, liked my style of play," Armstrong said. "I think that’s really what stands out, just my motor and how I play."

In the end, that ranked as more important than his regression in production. And the good news for Armstrong is that he won’t be the focal point along the Cowboys’ defensive line, particularly with DeMarcus Lawrence coming off a 14.5-sack season.

Instead, the Cowboys view him as a rotational piece that will add depth at a premium position.

"We got us a good pressure player in Armstrong," Stephen Jones said. "A guy we had high on our board. We feel like he will do a hell of a job for us in there putting pressure."

Dallas Cowboys second-round pick Connor Williams visited the The Star on Saturday. Williams played at the University of Texas.