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Cowboys camp: DeMarcus Lawrence is shaping up as the biggest X-factor in Dallas

Cowboys camp: DeMarcus Lawrence is shaping up as the biggest X-factor in Dallas

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Training Camp Storylines: Dallas Cowboys

Training Camp Storylines: Dallas Cowboys

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OXNARD, Calif. — It’s not too difficult to construct a case for a Dallas Cowboys regression in 2017. Whether it’s a potential sophomore slump for quarterback sensation Dak Prescott, or more injuries for Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant, or a possible suspension for powerful running back Ezekiel Elliott or the reality few teams win 13 games in consecutive years in this league of parity, options abound as to why this team might slip this season.

And in the fact the Cowboys face a tougher schedule and play in an NFC East that might be as competitive as any division in football for a change, and consider the doctrine that a half-dozen playoff teams or so generally lose their way the following season in the NFL and — well, let’s just say you’ve got my attention.

For all of those potential pitfalls, I’d suggest an additional factor that could ultimately be the Cowboys’ downfall beyond all of the others: This roster remains utterly devoid of proven pass-rushing talent.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is a maestro and a master schemer, and few can do less with more, but having him take this group of tackles, ends and linebackers into the season may be requiring feats of magical to rival anything David Blaine has ever orchestrated. Randy Gregory, a top pick selected to infuse sacks into the lineup two years ago, remains suspended. First-round pick Taco Chartlon is having a rocky transition to the pro game based on early returns.

And as much as Prescott and Bryant and Elliott — the new triplets of this offense — get talked about, few players on this roster are more important than defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, far and away the club’s most talented edge force and someone who may have to post double-digit sack totals if the Cowboys are going to reach the playoffs for consecutive seasons for just the third time in the last 20-plus years.

If you are looking for a candidate for a breakthough year in terms of quarterback pressures among this unheralded bunch, Lawrence (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) is the guy. Ask around training camp who here can get to the passer, and his hand will shoot up as he runs to the head of the class. It’s a prophecy the Cowboys desperately need to come true.

“I wouldn’t be holding my hand up in the back of room,” Lawrence, 23, told me after a spirited practice at the team’s training camp facility here. “I’m going to stand up and walk to the front of the room and let everybody know that I’m going to be accountable, and make sure I take care of…

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