The Dallas Cowboys missed a big pass-rusher in 2014, and they especially missed a presence like the one DeMarcus Ware provided in previous seasons before he was cut loose and signed with Denver last offseason.
They thought they had drafted his replacement in Boise State product DeMarcus Lawrence, who they got after they traded up to pick him in the second round of the draft. Then, Lawrence was injured in training camp and put on the PUP list.
"He really made an impact on our team towards the end of the year when he came back,” Garrett told reporters on Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We were really disappointed he lost that time once he got hurt in training camp, lost that time in the early part of the season because they grow so much early on — these practices and these preseason games are so valuable to these guys.
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"They can really benefit from these reps maybe as much as anybody. I think when he came back we saw that, we saw him grow from practice to practice and week to week and by the end of the year he was really making a lot of impact plays for us."
Lawrence started slowly when he returned after missing the first eight games of the season, but flourished down the stretch and had an especially big moment in the Cowboys' Wild Card playoff win over the Detroit Lions.
He recovered a fumble from Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the final minutes of the game with the Cowboys holding on to a lead, but instead of just falling on the ball he tried to advance it and ended up fumbling the ball back to Detroit. He would've been the goat had the Lions come back to win, but instead he sacked Stafford a few plays later, forced a fumble and then recovered it to secure the Cowboys' win.
"That sequence in the Detroit game was really big for him," Garrett said. "I think that shows what he’s all about and what kind of young man he is. You talk about football character — those are the kind of things we’re looking for. We think the sky is the limit for him."