‘The Poster Child’: How Dorance Armstrong Is Proving The Cowboys Right
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Dorance Armstrong is enjoying a career season. Part of the much-vaunted Cowboys defense that leads the NFL in sacks with 45, Armstrong has taken giant, consistent strides, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
In fact, maybe he deserves notice as “the prototype” – or, “the poster child,” as coach Mike McCarthy puts it – for the Cowboys’ much-ballyhooed “draft-and-develop” philosophy.
Drafted in 2018 in the fourth round, Armstrong was used mostly on special teams through his first two seasons as he played 48 percent of the snaps in 2019 and then 62 percent of snaps in 2020 before being elevated into the full defensive line rotation.
“He was a young player when I first arrived in 2020,” McCarthy said. “He was primarily looked at as a special-teams player, but every opportunity he was given at defensive end, he’s been productive. I think he took another step last year. To me, he’s the kinda poster child for what you’re looking for. You talk about ‘draft and develop,’ you want to see a young player come in and grow each and every year.”
Through 11 games, Armstrong has already hit his career-best sack mark, totaling eight (second-best behind Micah Parsons). His previous best was five in 2021.
“He has been a very consistent player every time he’s been given opportunities,” McCarthy said. “He’s playing in pretty much a starting role capacity as far as mindset. He’s so consistent, has a great motor. His ability to make plays, whether that be blocking punts or second and third reactions, he’s as good a defensive player that we have on our roster.”
That is some commendation, given that the likes of Parsons and Tank Lawrence and Trevon Diggs are part of the Dallas defense.
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Oftentimes, “draft and develop” is a verbal disguise that actually means, “We don’t want to spend on outside free agents.” And frankly, that’s in play here, too. But when Dallas turned the page on Randy Gregory as he moved to Denver, the Cowboys talked of “DA” being able to fill the bill.
And now? While Parsons gets the plaudits and while Tank has earned the respect, Armstrong is a productive symbol of a concept gone right – “the poster child” for it.
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The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.