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Can Cowboys Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill Carve out a Role in 2020?

Heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys were in need of some interior defensive line help. If you recall, they had just finished the 2018 season getting literally ran through by the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Cowboys defensive interior had little answers for the Rams interior offensive line as Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson each ran for more than 100 yards on the day.

So when the Dallas Cowboys selected Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill with the 58th overall, there was some excitement surrounding the pick. Prior to that, Maliek Collins in 2016 was the last time the Dallas Cowboys spent a top 100 selection on a defensive tackle. And as they scoured practice squads for free agent defensive tackle depth (David Irving and Antwaun Woods), a second-round selection seemed like a significant investment.

Though there were some questions about Trysten Hill from his time at the University of Central Florida (he didn’t start a single game during his final season), the relationship he built with former Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli proved to be enough for the Dallas Cowboys to take a shot on the productive pass rusher.

Hill’s explosive first step is the first thing you notice. He gets off the ball very quickly and is able to provide significant interior pressure in both the run and pass game. He’s a one-gap defensive tackle. Where Hill struggles, and we saw it some in his rookie season, was in maintaining his balance when double-teamed in the running game.

Going into his second season with the Dallas Cowboys, Trysten Hill will have a lot of competition for snaps on the interior.

This offseason, the front office made a concerted effort to overhaul the defensive interior, first allowing Maliek Collins to leave for the Las Vegas Raiders, and then they signed Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe in free agency. They then drafted Neville Gallimore out of the University of Oklahoma. With the likelihood of Antwaun Woods and Tyrone Crawford returning as well, the Dallas Cowboys have a solid group of defensive tackles to work with in 2020.

Trysten Hill could find himself the odd man out.

People have raved over the signing of Defensive Line Coach Jim Tomsula, and perhaps a change in leadership can help bring the best out of Trysten Hill. In 2019, it appeared as if Hill had lost favor with the coaching staff, which led to him playing just seven games and only 11% of the defensive snaps during his rookie campaign. A fresh start with a new coaching staff could be just what the doctor ordered for Hill.

There’s also a possibility that the Dallas Cowboys play some 3-4 in 2020 as well, which could open up snaps for Hill as a 5-technique (a 3-4 defensive end).

It’s odd to imagine that a second-round pick from just one year ago would have an uphill climb for defensive line snaps heading into his second season, but that’s where Trysten Hill stands at this point. The Dallas Cowboys have admitted that they had a higher grade on Connor McGovern in the 2019 draft class than they did on Hill, but felt the interior defensive line depth significantly dropped off after Hill.

While Rod Marinelli and Jason Garrett are gone, the thing that Hill has going for him is that Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Will McClay are all still here. As much as it appears that Hill’s selection was largely influenced by Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys front office owns the pick as well. They’ll make every effort to see that it works out.

Heading into his second summer with the Dallas Cowboys, Trysten Hill still has a lot to prove. How he plays in what will likely be a shortened training camp and preseason will go a long way to determining his future with the Dallas Cowboys. There’s still a lot of talent to be unearthed there, so it’s far too soon to write him off. However, Trysten Hill will have to earn every snap he gets this offseason with the improved depth along the defensive line.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.


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  1. You’re closer the situation than we are … but seems the biggest concern is his headspace? Talent seems relatively undeniable, so you have to wonder what’s holding him up. Between his senior college season and his rookie NFL season, seems there’s reason to be concerned about him. And as you note, it might be tough for him due to COVID-19 and the limited chances it might present. Jerry, Stephen, and Will might have learned something with Taco, and may not wait that long again. Jimmy Johnson once said it’s a bigger mistake not to admit a mistake and move on …

  2. Of course he will. He played pretty well last year. Just didn’t earn enough snaps early. I’ve seen several video clips where he dominated his blocker and made some tackles at the line of scrimmage.

  3. Just a bad pick, especially in second round. They should move him, while he might have some value to another team. I was not “excited” when he was drafted, just opposite. If you looked at his GAME FILM, NOT HIGHLIGHTS, he did NOT look like second rd material. Over running plays, taking bad angles, and on the ground too often. On top of that, sleeping and late at/for team meetings!!!

    If they were hellbent for a DT, Khalen Saunders was available, much better player, picked by KC in third round, 84th pick. So he is a SUPER BOWL WINNER his first year. Lucky for him the Cowboys passed on him.

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