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As DeMarcus Lawrence prepares to share the field with J.J.
Watt for the first time in the regular season Color Rush Joe Looney Jersey , Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli figures it's time to say his best defensive end shares the elite company of the Houston Texans star.Lawrence leads the NFL in sacks early in the season for the second straight year, and has 20 sacks over 20 games since the start of last season. It's not quite the territory of Watt, who had 20陆 sacks in a season twice while earning All-Pro honors four straight years starting in 2012.But it's at least proving another thing Marinelli believes."People ask, 'Is he a one-year wonder last year?'" Marinelli said Thursday. "I said, 'Two years before that, he had eight sacks and played well.' He, to me, is on a course, because of his work habits, how much he cares, to be great. I think we see him on the rise."The 26-year-old Lawrence tied his career high with three sacks in last week's 26-24 win over Detroit and leads the NFL with 5陆. That's half a sack better than a three-way tie that includes Watt and Chicago's Khalil Mack, who got the nod over Lawrence for NFC defensive player of the month in September.It's the second straight year that Lawrence has started fast . He had a seven-game sack streak after going without one in the 2017 opener and ended up tied with Jacksonville's Calais Campbell for second in the NFL with 14陆 sacks.This year, Lawrence has at least half a sack in all four games with the Cowboys (2-2) set to visit the Texans (1-3) on Sunday night."I look at it like this," Lawrence, who hasn't been available to reporters in the locker room this week, said before the season started. "This is my job. I'm passionate about it. I love it. Yeah, I'm eager to get back out there and show what went on in the offseason and different moves I picked up on. Just to go after the gold."By "gold," Lawrence meant a championship, something that's been 23 years in the making for a franchise with five Super Bowl titles. But he's chasing the other kind of gold, too.Lawrence is playing on a $17.1 million franchise tag after the sides didn't even get close to a long-term extension during the offseason. He happily signed it and shrugged off repeated questions about it during training camp, usually with something along the lines of, "I ain't trippin'."As the sack numbers pile up again, Lawrence could be looking at a huge payday — or another year on the franchise tag Color Rush Taco Charlton Jersey , which he probably wouldn't sign so happily again. At the same time, Lawrence has made it clear he can't afford to dwell on such things."I love this game so much," he said. "This game can wrap you up around so many different obstacles of money, the streets, all the outside B.S. I just try to stay focused and get the job done."Marinelli and coach Jason Garrett frequently point to a pair of key moments in Lawrence's career.The first was late in a wild-card win over the Lions four years ago when Lawrence tried to run with a fumble after Matthew Stafford was sacked and fumbled it back to Detroit. The rookie atoned by sacking Stafford, forcing a fumble and recovering it to secure just the team's second playoff win since its last Super Bowl victory."He made one of the more memorable plays, sequence of plays, that I've been around in my life," Garrett said. "In a lot of ways, that followed what we had seen already. I think we all knew good things were to come."The second was Lawrence choosing to play through back troubles when the Cowboys returned to the playoffs in 2016 even though he was on his way to his second surgery in as many offseasons.The payoff has been his health since then, and the carry over in production from his breakthrough season to the next."I just think it's mindset, understanding once the season ends, that player ends," Marinelli said. "You've got to start over again. He's brought that mindset with him every day. His routine, his practices. Some of his practices are just really terrific, how hard and fast he goes."It's carrying over to games as well. It’s time to shake off those cobwebs, the ones that accumulated not from Halloween, but because the Cowboys are playing a football game for the first time in over two weeks.We haven’t gone this long without Cowboys football since the offseason, and seeing as how this game will mark the halfway point of the regular season for Dallas, we need to make it (and the remaining eight) count, don’t we?Dallas is under the lights for their home date against the Tennessee Titans. Jason Witten returns with ESPN’s Monday Night Football and it looks like the blue and silver carpet is going to be rolled out for him just like it was one year ago today for his quarterback Tony Romo.What will happen? What fun will be had? Welcome to BTB’s five bold predictions.Dallas will score touchdowns on their first two possessionsIn their first home game of the season the Cowboys scored on their first two possessions of the game (touchdown, field goal).In their second home game of the season the Cowboys scored on three of their first four possessions of the game (punt, field goal , field goal, touchdown).Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesIn their third home game of the season the Cowboys cored on all of their first four possessions (field goal, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown). At some point before the first Cowboys game at AT&T Stadium this season a switch was flipped that made Dallas a team that loves being at home as they’re undefeated there this season. With Amari Cooper in tow and two weeks to prepare this feels like the week that the Cowboys get in the paint on their first two possessions.14-0 sounds nice, doesn’t it? Ezekiel Elliott will have at least 80 yards rushingThis may seem ridiculous when you first read it, but did you know that Zeke has failed to eclipse 80 yards in a majority of games this season? He’s second in the league in rushing with these weekly totals: Week 1: 69Week 2: 78Week 3: 127Week 4: 152Week 5: 54Week 6: 106Week 7: 33Elliott has played on MNF twice in his career, against the Detroit Lions in 2016 and at the Arizona Cardinals in 2017. Did you know that in both of those games that Zeke finished with exactly 80 yards rushing?80 seems to be a number he’s had trouble breaking this season. Here’s to him blowing past it.Amari Cooper will have more yardage than any Cowboys receiver has had in a game all seasonThe Cowboys have had a pass-catcher eclipse 100 yards only once this season. It was Cole Beasley who did it against the Jacksonville Jaguars three weeks ago with 101.Ezekiel Elliott, Tavon Austin, and even rookie Michael Gallup have all come somewhat close at different points, and not that 100 yards define anything particular special, but the lack of receivers dropping c-notes is obviously part of why the Cowboys traded for Amari to begin with.During his announced entrance to the Ring of Honor Gil Brandt encouraged folks to take the over on Amari’s yardage against Tennessee (it’s 50.5). 102 yards would be more than doubling that which would be quite surprising according to oddsmakers, but they don’t call them totally normal and reasonable predictions, do they?Brett Maher will cover more yardage with his field goals than all Titans running backs do combinedThe last time we saw Brett Maher was not a very good moment for the Cowboys, but given the circumstances surrounding the kick he attempted (not to mention the snap infraction penalty) he’s easily forgiven. Maher has been one of the things the Cowboys were most correct about this season and both he and the team deserve major props for that.One of the great things about Brett is his big leg. He can connect kicks from great distances. Consider the total yardage covered on his successful field goals this season:Week 1: 0Week 2: 68Week 3: 85Week 4: 135Week 5: 118Week 6: 183Week 7: 47When you look at how much ground (and air) that Maher can cover you realize that it can be a legitimate amount, more than might initially jump to your mind. The Cowboys defensive front is going to be jumping all over the Tennessee Titans when they try to run the ball, and for that reason it doesn’t seem like they’re going to have that much success.For the Titans it all comes down to Dion Lewis on the ground. Can Brett Maher beat him? He’s already beaten plenty of other odds, what’s one more? Jaylon Smith will have a swipe in every quarter of the gameOne of the more beautiful sights when it comes to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys is the patented “swipe” move of Jaylon Smith. He does this after tackles for losses and other big plays that he produces which, to our delight, has been quite often this season.Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThis game against Tennessee has the makings of a slugfest of sorts. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is capable of getting out of the pocket and you can just sense that Jaylon is going to be waiting there for him so that he can say hello. The last time that we saw the Cowboys featured Jaylon alongside both Sean Lee and Leighton Vander Esch. With an extra week for all of them to get healthy it’s fair to expect the Cowboys linebackers (arguably the best unit of their defense) to have themselves a nice day.Four swipes at minimum is asking for a bit, but to be fair Jaylon has already done a lot more than we’ve asked of him in general. It really is insane that he’s gotten to the point where predictions like this are legitimately feasible and not at all out of the realm of possibility.

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