The Dallas Cowboys had the second-worst run defense in the NFL in 2020. No surprise; big changes came in the middle of the defensive line this offseason. Based on these moves, does it appear that Dallas got better or worse or defensive tackle for 2021?
In a season full of disappointments, one of the big ones was that we never got to see Gerald McCoy in a Cowboys uniform. One of the best DTs in football for the last decade, McCoy signed with Dallas last year but was lost almost immediately with a major training camp injury.
Despite talk that McCoy and the Cowboys had mutual interest in running it back in 2021, eventually Dallas moved on to other options. Gerald remains a free agent currently and there’s no indication that the two parties are still in talks.
Speaking of veteran DTs, Dallas decided to part ways with Antwaun Woods shortly following the draft. Woods has been a reliable and versatile player the last few years but was being asked to do too much at times. The Cowboys clearly felt they needed an upgrade and decided to pocket a couple million in cap savings instead of bringing Antwaun back.
The Cowboys’ strategy to get better at defensive tackle is twofold. They’re banking on young talent like Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore to help improve the position. As 2nd and 3rd-round picks in recent drafts, these two are naturally expected to become contributors and have flashed that potential at times.
2021 Offseason Movement at DT
- Gerald McCoy
- Antwaun Woods
- Eli Ankou
- Brent Urban (FA
- Carlos Watkins (FA)
- Osa Odhigizuwa (R)
- Quinton Bohanna (R)
- Austin Faoliu
But while there’s still hope in Hill and Gallimore, Dallas also brought in some new veteran options in Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins. The team appears especially intrigued in Urban, one of the league’s top-graded run stoppers last year, after giving him a fully-guaranteed contract for 2021.
Urban and Watkins certainly don’t have Gerald McCoy’s name recognition or past accolades, but there was concern even before his injury what McCoy would contribute at age 32. We never got to see him in action, but that further shows how these veteran additions could provide fast improvement from 2020.
The Cowboys didn’t stop there. With 3rd and 6th-round picks in the 2021 Draft they added Osa Odighizuwa and Quinton Bohanna. These rookies will join Hill and Gallimore to heat up the competition and hopefully give Dallas a strong young core of DT talent.
Odighizuwa is another player in the 3-tech mold like Trysten and Neville. With a new defensive coaching staff, it will be interesting to see how they value the previous regime’s talents versus their own handpicked 3rd-rounder. The progress of these young talents will be one of the more intriguing storylines of camp and preseason.
Even as a 6th-round pick, Bohanna could be a real factor as a true run-stuffer. Dallas has tried to use different players in that role through the years who didn’t really fit the bill. Last season, adding Dontari Poe proved to be a huge bust as his conditioning and motivation were called into question and eventually led to his midseason release.
There’s definitely a mentality of “it couldn’t be worse” when looking at the defensive tackles in 2020. From injuries to scheme changes to young players still learning, this was one of the real weak points on last year’s team.
Between the new free agents and rookie additions, plus the hoped-for growth from Hill and Gallimore, it’s hard to see this group not being better from 2020. If nothing else, the upgrade of Dan Quinn over Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator should help the players be more effective.