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Five things to know about Dorance Armstrong

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The Washington Commanders bolstered their pass rush last week by signing veteran defensive end Dorance Armstrong. Here are five things to know about one of the newest additions to Washington's defensive front.

1. He's one of the better players to come out of Kansas.

The Jayhawks had a performance in the third season of Lance Leipold's tenure, finishing with their first winning record in 16 years, but no one would confuse them with a football powerhouse. In the three seasons that Armstrong was in Lawrence, Kansas, the program only won three total games and one in the Big 12 conference.

So, there might not have been a lot of team success for Armstrong, but there was not much to dispute that he was one of their best players.

Armstrong was more of a role player as a freshman, although he did start in the last five games of the 2015 season and recorded 23 tackles with 3.5 sacks. He was elevated to the starting lineup one year later and saw a sizable uptick in his production, racking up 10 sacks and 56 tackles, 20 of which were for a loss. He registered the most sacks by a Kansas player since 2008, which also tied him for third on the program's single-season sack list.

Heading into his junior year, Armstrong was the first-ever Kansas player to receive preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors and backed up those expectations with 63 tackles. That performance earned him Second Team All-Big 12 recognition from coaches and The Associated Press by the end of the season.

2. Washington made the most sense for him.

Armstrong admitted during his press conference last week that he had a lot of options as to where he could go next. That isn't always the case for a player entering his seventh season, which speaks to how much the league valued his skill set.

Armstrong ultimately chose Washington, of course, because it made the most sense for him. He got to stay in the NFC East, and it reunited him head coach Dan Quinn.

"It wasn't a hard decision for me to make, honestly," Armstrong said.

Quinn's reputation for building relationships with his players and tailoring his scheme to the talent available to him is well known across the league. It's one of the reasons Washington has attracted so many free agents this offseason. As someone who has experienced this firsthand for the last three seasons, Armstrong said with certainty that the Cowboys' defense got better each season Quinn was leading the unit.

And the proof in that statement is evident. They allowed some of the fewest points in the league during the time Quinn was in Dallas, ranking as high as fifth in 2022 and 2023, and gave up the fifth-fewest yards per game in 2023.

That's something Armstrong wants to be part of again.

"That's the best thing that you could ask for is just to continue to grow each year," Armstrong said.

3. He wants to elevate his skill set in Washington.

Although Armstrong has been in the league for six years, he's never been a full-time starter, He's only had 14 starts in his career, but now he's coming into a situation where he's expected to be one of Washington's best pass-rushers. He plans to get the most out of that opportunity.

"I just want to be a more dominant player all around," Armstrong said. "I'm definitely capable of doing a lot of good things, but I think just having more opportunities on the field would be better for me."

Armstrong's past would indicate that he, and his team, would benefit from getting more snaps. Despite only getting a handful of starts in his career, he's recorded 169 tackles with 23 tackles for loss. In the three seasons that Quinn was Dallas' defensive coordinator, Armstrong has never finished lower than third among the team's defensive tackles.

Now that he's in Washington, he's expecting to be a leader up front.

"I can make plays inside and out," Armstrong said.

Take a look at some of Dorance Armstrong's best moments with the Dallas Cowboys. (Photos via The Associated Press)

4. He's starting to hit his stride as a pass-rusher.

Armstrong might be one of the best examples of Quinn knowing how to get the most out of his players.

Prior to Quinn getting hired by Dallas, Armstrong was essentially a non-factor when it came to rushing quarterbacks. He had just 2.5 sacks and eight quarterback hits with two forced fumbles. Once Quinn took over, Armstrong became a critical piece of the Cowboys' pass rush, recording 21 of his 23.5 career sacks in the last three seasons.

While first-round pick Micah Parsons has been one of the Cowboys' best when it comes to harassing quarterbacks, Armstrong has not been far behind him. He has the second-most sacks on the team since 2021, and with Quinn as his defensive coordinator, Armstrong hit career highs in overall defensive grade (70.1), tackling (83.4) and pass-rushing (70.1), according to PFF.

Last season, Armstrong ranked sixth among all NFC defensive ends with 7.5 sacks. In 2022, he registered a career-high in sacks (8.5), quarterback hits (15) and tackles for loss (nine).

5. He's a big fan of Joe Whitt Jr.

While Commanders defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. technically wasn't Armstrong's coach in Dallas, he knows how important Whitt was in helping to turn around the Cowboys' defense. He's expecting Whitt to do the same thing with the Commanders, and he's fired up for it.

"I think he'll do fantastic," Armstrong said. "He's going to transfer the things that we were doing over there to over here and just look for our defense to be something very special."

Quinn has already said that he thinks he can best serve the team by being able to oversee both sides of the ball and confirmed that Whitt will be calling the plays. So, Armstrong has confidence that the concepts Quinn used to turn around the Cowboys are going to be translated over to Washington.

Obviously, that mostly centers around what Whitt can do teach his players on the field, but that also includes the desire to help players thrive.

"Those are two phenomenal guys," Armstrong said. "They really care about their players, on and off the field. They want you to be the best for whatever you do, and to me, that's not normal for a lot of people to say that they can have at this level."

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