Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcus Lawrence: Cowboys defense has lost its swagger

Dallas Cowboys defensive DeMarcus Lawrence is known for his blunt assessments and colorful quotes.

Usually, they are reserved for the opposing team or a fan in the wrong jersey seeking an autograph.

But Lawrence didn’t shy away when commenting about the disappointing performance of his own defense through the first five games of the season, capped by the inability to stop the run in a 34-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Lawrence hasn’t been at his best because of double teams and nagging injuries, which included knee, shoulder and heel issues last week.

But he made no excuses.

“Who cares?’‘ Lawrence said Wednesday when asked about his injuries and if they were limiting him. “You care? Be honest. Do you really care?

“Nobody cares. Nobody cares about your feelings. Nobody cares if you’re hurt. Nobody cares if you’re broke, rich. Nobody cares. Who cares?

“Be you. Go to work. Peace.”

Lawrence is not just the mouth of the defense. He is the unit’s heart and soul because of his energy and production as a Pro Bowler the past two years.

In addition to the nagging injuries, opponents have limited his effectiveness with constant double teams and chipping from tight ends.

He has eight tackles and just two and a half sacks.

But it was something he expected after signing a five-year, $105 million contract extension in the off-season.

“I can say it can feels different,” Lawrence said. “They can switch it up, bring slot protection over to me or put two extra tight ends in the game, but I feel like that defines who I am. I’m a threat to them, so they got to use two of their players to put on me. It’s really all about getting better from it and learning where I can still make plays within two people being on me.

“I knew what I was setting myself up for this season. They have all the little camps and stuff plotting against me, so what? I got a team too, so it’s all about not just me but us going out there and wrecking havoc.”

The Cowboys didn’t wreak havoc Sunday, giving up 4.1 yards per carry. Packers running back Aaron Jones rushed 107 yards and four touchdowns.

No running back had ever rushed for four touchdowns against the Cowboys. Not Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell. Not any of them. Not until the unknown Jones.

It is something that must be addressed before Sunday’s game against the New York Jets and running back Le’veon Bell, who will make the Cowboys look even more foolish if they miss tackles and have poor run fits like they did against the Packers

“I would say team tackling — getting to the ball, wrapping up the ball carrier and bringing him down,” Lawrence said. “That’s what’s been missing. Basic fundamentals.”

“I think it starts with understanding our fits and making our hits. The main thing is stopping the run. That’s the main thing. If you stop the run, then you earned your right to rush the passer.”

While running back Ezekiel Elliott said the offense needed to play with more of an edge, Lawrence said the defense needs to get its swagger back. That means linebacker Jaylon Smith is making plays and doing his signature swipe move and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is doing his wolf howl.

“It’s swag. That’s what you call swag,” Lawrence said. “That’s what we need to see. Once you make plays, getting offenses off the field, three-and-outs, that demeanor, that swag starts to come. And the team feels it also. That’s what it’s all about, bringing that energy, like Zeke said. And that swagger.”

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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.