The Dallas Cowboys are dealing with yet another drug-related absence on their defense. In May, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that defensive lineman David Irving was facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy. Irving appealed the suspension, which reportedly involves a supplement he has a marketing deal with, but the punishment was made official Wednesday.
A 2015 undrafted free agent out of Iowa State, Irving plays a rotational role on Dallas’ defensive line, with an emphasis on rushing the passer. He logged 489 defensive snaps in 2016, recording four sacks, four forced fumbles, and 17 tackles. In Week 6, Irving was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after getting forcing three fumbles and registering a sack against the Green Bay Packers.
Suspensions are nothing new for the Cowboys, who have seen their defensive line take a big hit in recent years. Randy Gregory, a 2015 second-round pick, got a 10-game suspension in 2016 and is currently serving a full one-year ban after failing multiple drug tests. Demarcus Lawrence took a four-game suspension last year, while linebacker Rolando McClain’s career resurgence was cut short by a one-year suspension handed down last season.
The Cowboys finished 12-4 in 2016, yet their defense wasn’t always a strong suit. They managed 36 sacks, a middling 13th-most in the league, while ranking 14th in yards allowed per game. Irving actually had the fourth-most sacks on the team, behind Benson Mayowa (six), Maliek Collins (five), and Tyrone Crawford (4.5).
Dallas ought to be the favorites to win the NFC East again, and Irving’s situation isn’t nearly as dire as Gregory’s. However, they keep losing important role players to drug suspensions on the defensive line, and that lack of depth was a consistent weakness for the team in 2016. The Cowboys will surely hope that first-round draft pick Taco Charlton can be an immediate contributor.