—Long-armed (34 ¾”) edge-rusher with impressive burst and agility on a frame (6’4″, 257
lbs) that can be built up.
—Raw athlete with the tools to be developed into a special edge-rusher. Smooth, twitchy
—Excellent burst out of his stance; can beat blockers with his length or his first step.
—Uses his hands well to create space or redirect blockers; has a great stiff arm.
—Shows a variety of pass-rush moves and doesn’t have to win with just speed. Likes to work
inside or spin off blockers.
—Light for a 4-3 defensive end and may have to play in space.
—Needs to continue adding size and strength.
—Only recorded 1.5 sacks in 2017.
—Combine and pro-day athletic testing did not match what we saw on him. His 40 time (4.87)
—Lacks the power to set the edge in the run game.
Dorance Armstrong is a tough projection because his tape didn’t match his workouts, and his
production dropped in 2017. He requires a bit of imagination to see what he could develop
into, but that adds risk to his profile.
Jersey No. 74 should be short-lived for rookie defensive end Dorance Armstrong, as no
Cowboy has worn that number in the regular season since Hall of Famer Bob Lilly retired.
Don’t sleep on Armstrong for that reason, though, as he has a chance to develop and bring
a new infusion of talent into a right defensive end position group for Dallas that sorely
The RDE spot has been a hole on the Cowboys roster ever since they released DeMarcus Ware
in 2014. They tried filling that hole in 2015 free agency with Greg Hardy and that blew up
in their faces. The Cowboys then drafted Randy Gregory in the second round that year. He
has missed most of his career with suspensions, although he is working to get reinstated
this season. Last year’s first-round pick Taco Charlton wasn’t able to grab the starting
job in his first year, which disappointed many fans. So the future of the position on the
Cowboys is still wide open for someone to snatch.
Now, no one should expect Armstrong to shoot to the top of the depth chart in his first
season. There’s an adjustment period for any rookie defensive end, let alone one that was
drafted in the fourth round. Being drafted in the fourth round doesn’t mean he lacks the
talent or upside to become a starter, though.
While the effort Armstrong showed on tape certainly fits the “right kind of guy” mantra
Jason Garrett strives for, his athletic and physical profile is what makes him a unique
talent for the Cowboys.
The combination of length and bendability is exactly the kind of pass-rush skill the
Cowboys have been missing opposite DeMarcus Lawrence.
While some fans might be worried about Armstrong’s 40-yard dash time, his former head
coach at Kansas David Beaty gave his explanation for why his combine time didn’t match the
“Well, Dorance has never weighed 260 pounds since he’s been here. He came in very, very
heavy. I’m not sure who exactly he was training with, but my way of dealing with him would
not be carrying that kind of weight. The guy we know, one of his biggest attributes is his
speed and quickness . . . Dorance never ran even remotely close to the (4.87) times he ran
for the scouts. He’s been a high 4.5 to mid 4.6 guy every day when he was at the right
weight: I think what they’re going to see is one of the most explosive guys develop in the
NFL when it comes to getting off that edge. They found them a pass rusher. They got them a
guy, no doubt.”
The Cowboys front office hopes it’s found itself a pass rusher as there are a lot of
question marks on the edge moving forward with Lawrence being a free agent next year, Taco
Charlton’s development uncertain, Gregory’s inability to stay in the league and Tyrone
Crawford’s contract making him a possible cap-casualty starting in 2019.
The Cowboys need more of these defensive end investments to hit, and Armstrong is hoping to
cash in for the Cowboys in a big way.
In this series, Cowboys Wire will be counting down the days until the regular season opener
against the Carolina Panthers with a profile of the player whose jersey number matches the
days remaining. On June 28, 74 days remain. Next up, No. 73 Joe Looney.
The Cowboys head into 2019 with two defensive ends who are worthy of starting. That is,
they will have two if they can get DeMarcus Lawrence re-signed. He and Randy Gregory make
up a talented pair of ends. The Cowboys also have Tyrone Crawford who has the versatility
to play on the end or move to the interior when needed. So in reality, that’s three guys.
Rod Marinelli likes to rotate his player so we’re looking for a fourth to join that party.
The two main candidates are Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong. Will one of them emerge in
2019 to stake a claim?
The first-round pick in 2017 is starting to hear the “bust” label more and more. Through
two seasons in the league he only has four sacks. Three of those came in his rookie year
when he got hot down the stretch. That mini-hot streak led many to believe that 2018 would
be his break out year. That didn’t happen. Early in the year he was making some plays, but
not like you would expect from a first-round pick. Then he hurt his shoulder and eventually
was made inactive for a few weeks when the coaching staff wasn’t happy with his
Last year Charlton played in 11 games and was in on 39.2% of the snaps on defense for the
year. He had one sack, five TFLs and seven QB hits. (Snap counts from Football Outsiders).
Armstrong was a rookie in 2018 after being drafted in the fourth round. The Cowboys were
very excited to get him that late in the draft as they thought he would go earlier.
Armstrong played in 15 games last year but only managed to put up half a sack on the year.
He did manage to help out on special teams where he accumulated quite a few snaps.
Overall in those 15 games, he got half a sack, one TFL and three QB hits. He played on
26.7% of the defensive snaps.
The Dallas Cowboys have talent at the defensive end position — DeMarcus Lawrence emerged as one of the NFL’s best defensive players in 2018, Tyrone Crawford is a solid veteran, and Kony Ealy is a former second-round pick that still has the talent to be a factor in a defensive line rotation. Taco Charlton was the 28th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft and began to show promise during the latter parts of last season. Oh, and there is a chance that Randy Gregory is eligible to play as soon as this September.
Even still, the Cowboys saw a player fall to them in the fourth-round that they could not pass up. A prospect that was once earning first-round hype after a huge breakout campaign in 2016 — Dorance Armstrong from the Kansas Jayhawks.
The Houston native and former North Shore High School star was tabbed as one of five potential steals in the 2018 NFL Draft by Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples.
Let’s take a look on why the Cowboys wanted to add Armstrong to their defense.
The aspect of Dorance Armstrong’s game that gives him a chance to be a special player in the NFL is his ability to rush off of the edge and get to the quarterback. Playing defensive end in a 4-3 defense in 2016, Armstrong thrived and lived in opponents’ backfields each and every Saturday. The 2016 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year made 56 tackles, 20 tackles-for-loss, and got to the quarterback ten times during his sophomore season on the collegiate level.
This first clip shows Armstrong flying right past Tech Tech’s right tackle and forcing Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to rush his throw.
The replay shows Armstrong’s burst as soon as the ball is snapped. The right tackle has no chance, and Mahomes is taken down to the turf early in the game. Those hits definitely add up over the course of four quarters.
Later in the first quarter, Armstrong is lined up as a stand-up rusher. Armstrong’s speed immediately gives him an advantage and the offensive lineman has no chance to stop him from affecting the play.
Here’s another look at the sack. Armstrong’s versatility allowed Kansas to use his talents in a variety of different ways. Unlike the first play, Armstrong is not in a 3-point stance; instead, he is standing up and immediately starts his route to the quarterback. The talented pass rusher is able to get by the right tackle and get in Mahomes’ blind spot, resulting in Armstrong’s first of two sacks in the game.
If sacking one first-round quarterback isn’t enough for you, here’s Armstrong getting by Oklahoma’s right tackle and getting to 2017 Heisman Trophy winner and 2018’s number one overall draft pick Baker Mayfield. Nice spin move!
And this last clip shows how Armstrong can affect passing plays without getting all the way to the quarterback, as he deflects preseason 2018 Heisman Trophy contender Will Grier’s pass.
The Kansas star isn’t at his best in run support, but he is still capable of making some plays in that area. Here are a few examples of Armstrong defending the run.
In this first clip, Armstrong is lined up as the left defensive end in a 4-3 scheme for Kansas. Mayfield and Oklahoma are running opposite of Armstrong’s direction, but he used his speed and athleticism to track down the running back, Joe Mixon, behind the line of scrimmage.
Another look shows that OU does not block Armstrong on the read-option play, which forces him to make a decision on whether to stay home and force the quarterback to hand the ball or go immediately for the back and risk giving up a big gain on a QB keeper. Armstrong’s length and athleticism makes him a threat to tackle both the back and Mayfield — should he have kept it.In this next clip, Armstrong lines up at defensive end in the four-man front but immediately cuts inside. He reads where West Virginia running back Kennedy McKoy is going, and his quickness allows him to track the ball carrier down.Finally, Dorance Armstrong was known throughout his career for the Jayhawks as an elite pass rusher; but in this play below, Armstrong makes a huge splash play — creating a turnover in the red zone and recovering the fumble as well.
Another look at the play shows Armstrong stand the ball carrier up and immediately start grabbing for the football. After finally ripping the ball out, he finishes the play off by falling and recovering the fumble. Not only does he play the run well here, but he makes a play that can potentially change a game.
Dorance Armstrong was hyped up to be a potential first-round choice last offseason following a campaign in which he tormented offensive linemen each and every Saturday in 2016. But after a season which he played out of position and his production suffered because of it, the Cowboys were able to grab a potential pass-rushing gem on day three of the 2018 draft.
Armstrong is a freakish – but raw – athlete that possesses 34 3/4” arms to go along with his 6-foot-4 and 257 pound frame and a quick burst which makes him difficult for any offensive tackle to keep from getting into the backfield. While he is a little light for a 4-3 defensive end, Armstrong makes up for it with his quick first step and by using his hands to get by offensive tackles. As the only elite player on the Kansas roster, Armstrong was the focal point of scouting reports and often had to battle double-teams.
Dorance Armstrong has a high ceiling and the skill-set to flourish under Rod Marinelli in Dallas. The Cowboys found a franchise quarterback in the fourth-round of the 2016 draft; have they found a franchise pass rusher this time around?