Coming off of a disappointing loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Thanksgiving Day, the Dallas Cowboys are looking to get off the snide. Mike McCarthy’s squad received great news on Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence ahead of the Thursday Night Football tilt against the New Orleans Saints. His return means everything to the Cowboys’ defense, especially Micah Parsons.
DeMarcus Lawrence expected to return vs. Saints
The Dallas Cowboys have drastically improved defensively over the 2020 season. They’ve done so without one of their best defensive players for most of 2021.
According to Pro Football Talk, the team expects to have defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence back on the field against the Saints.
Lawrence played in the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but left the game with a broken foot. The injury caused him to miss the past 10 games, and his return is a welcomed sign for Dallas.
When he’s healthy, Lawrence can undoubtedly be one of the NFL‘s best pass rushers. His production has been up and down throughout his career, but he does have two double-digit sack seasons under his belt (2017 and 2018).
The last time we saw the Aiken, South Carolina native, he had himself a solid game against Tampa Bay. Lawrence recorded five tackles and a forced fumble.
The impact of his return could be massive, especially at this point in the season.
The veteran’s return will help Cowboys rookie Micah Parsons
Having DeMarcus Lawrence on the field instantly makes the Dallas Cowboys’ defense much better. His return will also open up more opportunities for Micah Parsons to make big-time plays.
With all of the injuries the Cowboys have battled on the defensive line, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn decided to experiment. He’s lined his rookie linebacker up at defensive end on multiple occasions. The experiment has actually worked, too.
Parsons has been a force for Dallas so far in 2021. He’s already registered 67 tackles, nine sacks, and two forced fumbles. The Penn State product’s versatility has been on display in Lawrence’s absence. He’s shown a knack for getting after the quarterback no matter where he lines up.
With the 2-time Pro Bowler back in the mix, there won’t be as much pressure on Parsons. Lawrence’s skills as an edge rusher command attention from opposing offensive lines. That could set up some one-on-one opportunities for the rookie, which spells trouble for the offense.
The Cowboys can also have Parsons play more of his natural position, where he can roam freely and fly around the football.
“He’s one of the best edge rushers in the NFL,” said Parsons of Lawrence, per The Dallas Morning News.
This tandem could present significant problems for Dallas’ opponents down the stretch.
Dallas’ defense is getting healthy at the right time
Dan Quinn’s defense has battled injuries and personnel changes throughout the 2021 season, but the health meter is starting to trend in the right direction.
DeMarcus Lawrence’s return is a good start. At 29 years old, the Boise State product still has plenty left in the tank, and the Cowboys are hoping he can prove that.
The defense has also desperately missed the defensive end’s veteran presence on the field. “He’s showing us the way and leading us out there,” said cornerback Trevon Diggs.
“He’s dynamic,” added Micah Parsons. “The energy he brings to the table is great. We’re all very, very happy to have him back.”
The Cowboys have also designated defensive tackle Neville Gallimore to return from injured reserve soon. The second-year player out of Oklahoma has missed time due to an elbow injury. His presence should help bolster a run defense that’s allowed 156.6 rushing yards per game over the last five.
Defensive end Randy Gregory is a little further out as he recovers from a calf injury but should be back sooner rather than later. He’s been having a solid season, and the defense is more explosive when he’s out there.
At 7-4, the Dallas Cowboys need to make a statement against the Saints. Look for DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons to lead the charge against a banged-up offensive line.
It could be open season on Taysom Hill.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference