In total, the defensive line that Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn expected to be the starters in 2021 has taken 28 snaps together. Week 1 was the only time Randy Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Neville Gallimore were on the field together. That could all change against the Washington Football Team on Sunday.
The Cowboys defense ranked at the bottom of the NFL in 2020 after numerous injuries to key players. The off-season saw Dallas make historic moves to bolster the defensive side of the ball, and the pay-off has been evident this season.
Despite losing Gallimore in the preseason and suffering through other injuries and COVID-related restrictions, the Dallas defensive line has been one of the league’s toughest in 2021.
The NFL season is in its final leg, and no team in the NFL is yet guaranteed a playoff spot. The Cowboys sit at 8-4 overall but are 2-0 in division games.
The Cowboys outscored Philadelphia and New York by more than 20 points. This Sunday, the Cowboys face Washington, who has found itself on a hot streak by winning four consecutive games. At 6-6, the Washington Football Team (WFT) still sits two games behind the division-leading Cowboys, but a victory could have significant playoff implications for both teams.
The Cowboys will face division rivals in four of the last five games, including a Week 15 rematch against the New York Giants, before facing Washington again in Week 16. In a potential preview of playoff action, the Cowboys will also face the NFC-leading Arizona Cardinals before the end of the season.
With the return last week of DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys potent defensive line forced four interceptions and a fumble while shutting down New Orleans Saints dangerous QB Taysom Hill. Known for his ability to do damage outside the pocket, the Cowboys kept the pressure on Hill. Led by Lawrence and Micah Parsons, Hill was hit six times, sacked twice, and had nine passes defended.
With Gallimore and Gregory due to return to action, the Cowboys defensive line will be entering the final stretch with the possibility of being better than before at full strength. Not only will the team be fielding rested, healthy starters, but the backups also have excellent experience and a proven track record of getting the job done.
This season, Gregory has played in only seven games and has been out since Week 9 after suffering a calf strain in a loss to the Denver Broncos. Gregory also missed Week 2 after testing positive for COVID-19.
Lawrence had not played since Week 1 before starting against the Saints last Thursday. Lawrence suffered a broken bone in his right foot in a freak accident during practice following the Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay. The team had hoped for a six-week recovery but held Lawrence out until Week 13.
The Cowboys defensive line has been playing at a high level in recent weeks. The return of several experienced players should be a boost as the team heads into what is arguably the most challenging stretch of the season.