The roster turnover is already underway. Free agency has now begun and the 2017 NFL Draft isn’t far away. Over the next few weeks, the Cowboys will lose and replace a sizable portion of their roster.
For every new face, however, there are dozens of familiar ones who will return to begin a new campaign. From established veterans to second-year players, the vast majority of the Cowboys’ 2017 team is already on the roster. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they’ve been and where they’re going.
Today we’ll continue the series with defensive tackle David Irving.
What’s Been Good: Chalk this one up to the Cowboys’ scouting department. With Dallas needing some defensive line help in late September 2015, the team plucked Irving off of the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad, a move that proved to be genius. The hidden gem went on to play 12 games, posting 14 tackles, two for loss, 14 quarterback pressures and a half-sack. He also blocked a kick against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 1 of that season.
Fast-forward to 2016 and Irving definitely climbed another rung on the ladder, finishing his sophomore campaign with four sacks, which ranked fourth on the Cowboys, five tackles for loss and a team-high 26 quarterback pressures. Three of those sacks came in back-to-back games when he had 1.5 each against both Tampa Bay and Detroit in Weeks 15-16. In the win over the Buccaneers in particular he was simply dominant as Tampa Bay had little answer for Irving, who hounded quarterback Jameis Winston unmercifully in the fourth quarter. It was that kind of performance that has the Cowboys excited for the future.
What’s Been Bad: While Irving has shown flashes of being very good, even great, his overall résumé has been mostly just average to this point. Aside from his three brilliant outings against the Green Bay Packers, Buccaneers and Lions, he recorded zero sacks and was credited by the league with just eight tackles combined in his other 12 games played during the 2016 season. In seven of those, he didn’t have any takedowns. Even three of his five pass breakups on the year came in those three standout efforts.
2016 Highlight: For most players, a game like his one against the Buccaneers would be hard to top, but Irving actually did just that earlier in the 2016 season. At venerable Lambeau Field in Week 6, the big defensive tackle only saw action on 19 snaps, but he certainly made the most of them, as he recorded four tackles, batted down a pass and incredibly forced three fumbles, which tied DeMarcus Ware (2005) for the most in a game in team history. The first of those came when Green Bay was set up with a first-and-goal at the Dallas 1-yard line late in the third quarter. But Irving sacked Aaron Rodgers, stripped the quarterback of the ball and then recovered the prize himself, giving Dallas possession. For his effort in the Cowboys’ 30-16 win, Irving was named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week.
What’s Next: Although Irving entered the offseason as an exclusive rights free agent, there was never any doubt that he’d back with the team in 2017. And indeed, the Cowboys tendered him an offer for $615,000 on March 6, making it official. The next step in Irving’s development now has to be finding consistency in his play, as aside from those three aforementioned games, he has yet to make much of an impact. But given his size (6-foot-7, 285 pounds) and age (23), the Cowboys can’t help but be enthralled with his potential. He should vie for a starting job on the defensive line this year and, best-case scenario, be the pass-rush presence this team so desperately needs. Read