This Dallas Cowboys edge defender is finally starting to make some noise following a slow start to the year after he was signed this offseason as a restricted free agent.
The Dallas Cowboys didn’t make any splashy moves in free agency earlier this offseason. Instead, the Cowboys brass has decided to build their team primarily through the draft. And as their 11-2 record indicates, their plan is working.
But Dallas did add some key pieces during free agency to add depth to their roster as well as hoping they may stumble on a starting gem or two. After a slow start to the season, the signing of former Oakland Raider defensive end Benson Mayowa is starting to pay dividends.
What makes Mayowa situation unique is the fact the Raiders’ didn’t necessarily want to give up their young edge defender. As a restricted free agent, Oakland had the option to match any offer the four-year defender received. When the Cowboys offered Mayowa a three-year, $8.25 million contract, the Raiders ultimately refused to match. And Dallas had themselves a bonafide pass rusher. He just wasn’t a very experienced one.
Undrafted out of Idaho, Mayowa spent his rookie season winning a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks in 2013. He spent the following two years in Oakland. By the time he got to Dallas, the 25-year old had played in a grand total of 30 games, having started in three. Mayowa racked up a total of 22 tackles and two sacks in his first three seasons.
But the Cowboys saw potential in Mayowa. They likely figured if anyone could get production out of the undersized edge rusher (6-3, 265) it would be Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. But for most of this season, that experiment was deemed an outright failure.
In his first eight games in Dallas, Mayowa recorded a total of eight tackles and two sacks. But for Weeks 10, 11 and 12, the restricted free agent signee was placed on the inactive list as a healthy scratch. It was obvious the Cowboys were displeased with his play and were sending a message.
Apparently, that message was received loud and clear as Mayowa has stepped up his game in the last two weeks.
“Two games and two sacks for Benson Mayowa,” wrote football analyst Bryan Broaddus on the team’s official website. “I had a feeling when the Cowboys signed him in the offseason that maybe he could develop into a legitimate pass rusher, but he has been far from that. When he can capture the edge, he has a chance. When he rushes down the middle, then he is just another guy and that’s not good for anyone. For him to end up with six tackles in the game was also a good sign that he is helping more in the running game holding that edge.”
In Sunday night’s 10-7 loss to the New York Giants, Pro Football Focus actually graded Mayowa as the Cowboys best overall defensive player (85.3). Not only did the edge rusher have a critical strip sack that resulted in a turnover, but he also recorded six total tackles. Four of which were run stops.
With the Dallas Cowboys desperately searching for ways to generate more pass rush, Mayowa’s emergence could be just what the doctor ordered in Dallas. If the edge defender has truly turned a corner in his development, then the Cowboys could be the beneficiary of improving defensive line play as they enter the postseason.