Mac Engel

In order for Cowboys defense, Tank to dominate, they need help from these two players

He went from playing like the steal of the entire 2018 NFL Draft to essentially disappearing in less than one calendar month.

Dorance Armstrong neither quit football, nor did he leave the Dallas Cowboys. Don’t give up on this young man just yet.

The second-year defensive end from football power Kansas has fallen into the perfect opportunity to re-appear and earn serious football snaps playing football for the Dallas Cowboys professional football team in the National Football League.

With both Randy Gregory and Robert Quinn suspended to start the season, Armstrong is competing with former first round pick Taco Charlton for quality time opposite Pro Bowler Tank Lawrence.

Either Charlton or Armstrong must prove he can play, or Tank is going to have a major problem.

Mr. Armstrong, you might want to take advantage of this opportunity.

“I have to make the best of this,” he said. “I know these guys are good, but I think I’m good as well. I think I can beat ‘em. I don’t doubt myself.”

DORANCE ARMSTRONG’S ROOKIE YEAR

This time one year ago, DA was quite the rookie darling. Armstrong enjoyed a solid first preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, and continually was one of those guys people noticed in training camp.

Even if he was pushed around by All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, Armstrong looked like a guy who would make a play or two during his rookie year.

And he did just that. Once the regular season started, he made a play or two. Almost literally.

“Rookie wall, man,” Armstrong said. “It’s a long season, and something I was not used to. I had been going since January between college and The Combine, and that was about it.”

He played 15 games, and he started once. He had 15 tackles. And a half a sack. And one tackle for a loss. And he pressured the QB six times.

He was inactive in playoff games against the Seahawks and Rams.

“I did get (discouraged). Not being on the playing field a lot got to me. I was not used to it,” Armstrong said. “When I was at Kansas, I was on the field all the time. Coming here, I wasn’t. I know it’s all part of the process and I feel a lot better now. I think I’m better now.”

DORANCE ARMSTRONG VS. TACO CHARLTON

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Armstrong’s first year was good. That he improved. That he played well on special teams.

To be fair, Garrett has been known to say the exact same thing about lost dogs in neighborhoods.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has taken notice of Armstrong during this camp and praised the man’s performance thus far after two fake NFL games.

This one might carry more weight. Jerry, remember, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The question is Armstrong actually ahead of Taco? Or is DA’s placement on the depth chart in preseason games a result of a frustrated staff trying to motivate Charlton?

Charlton has the better body type to play the position, and he was a first round pick. First round picks tend to get the benefit of the doubt just a bit longer.

Charlton’s problem remains his motor, and maturity. He’s not a bad guy. He almost sounds like a guy who knows his future may be elsewhere.

The Cowboys need one of these guys to prove he can at least be good enough so Tank Lawrence does not see multiple blockers on every snap.

As the 2018 season progressed, Gregory was maturing into a solid player and a worthy end opposite Tank. He could rush a passer, and was competent against the run.

He had six sacks, 15 hits on the passer and he forced two fumbles. He made positive plays you noticed.

Of course, he’s suspended again. Quinn, his replacement, will miss the first two games after failing a drug test.

The Cowboys don’t need Armstrong or Charlton to be Tank, or even Gregory. They need DA or Tank to be better than they were last year for this defensive line to be what it was one year ago.

Dorance Armstrong ran right into that rookie wall one year ago and essentially vanished.

He will reappear this fall.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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