IRVING—It was just the sort of performance the Dallas Cowboys expected from DeMarcus Lawrence when they selected him in the second round, with the 34th overall pick, in the 2014 NFL Draft.
On Jan, 4, 2015 in the NFC Wild Card Game against the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium, Lawrence, then a rookie defensive end, sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, a Highland Park product, twice. He also forced a fumble and recovered two others as the Cowboys advanced to the NFC Divisional Playoffs with a 24-20 victory.
Lawrence takes great pride in that performance in his playoff debut, but also knows that showing won’t mean anything once the 2015 season starts Sunday night against the New York Giants. Still, he knows he can use that postseason experience as momentum to start strong in year two with the Dallas defense.
“Well, I feel like it’s going to carry over a lot,” Lawrence said. “We’ve got some great players on the d-line. Our linebacker corps is strong. Our secondary corps is strong, so I’m looking forward to playing with this group of guys.”
Lawrence’s playoff performance was even more impressive considering he missed half of last season while recovering from a fractured right foot suffered during his first NFL training camp. His debut didn’t come until week nine against the Arizona Cardinals, when he contributed two tackles in a 28-17 loss. In the seven regular-season games he played, he finished with nine tackles.
The Boise State product was one of nine Cowboys, including four on defense, who was a recognized winner in the team’s nine-week off-season strength and conditioning program, results which have impressed Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
“Lawrence has come along. We’ve got some guys that have shown it in preseason. Now we got to carry it into games,” Marinelli said. “Everything I’ve seen so far, it’s been good – his quickness, his speed up the field.”
And considering where he was at this time in 2014, watching from the sidelines as he continued his rehab, the young end admits he definitely doesn’t take being healthy for granted.
“It’s very different,” Lawrence said. “Ready to head into this first week and looking back on last year how [I was] just working to get back on the field. It’s a blessing just to be here, just preparing and getting better each and every day.”
However, he also knows that missing the first eight weeks of his rookie campaign, while far from ideal, wasn’t an altogether horrible experience, especially since it allowed him to work on some things he might not have otherwise been able to focus on improving during the course of a normal 16-week regular season.
“[It] just made me focus on football, the love of the game, made me work on my technique, my fundamentals and also my strengths and my weaknesses, getting into the weight room, working on my leg strength, my body weight,” Lawrence said. “So I kind of do look at it like a blessing in disguise.”